B's reflect on time with Cup, ready for new season

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B's reflect on time with Cup, ready for new season

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs

The Bruins are under no illusions about the difficulty of repeating as Stanley Cup champions once the 2011-12 NHL season gets underway.

They know just how much of a struggle it was to get to the NHL mountaintop last year, and its going to be even more challenging the second time around. They are the team with the targets on their back that other NHL squads will measure themselves against.

There hasnt been a back-to-back champion in 14 years since the Detroit Red Wings captured the Cup in 1997 and 1998, and that means no real dynasties since the current salary cap era was put in place.

The Bruins are a little bit of an exception to a lot of those teams because they have much of their squad intact, and lost only a handful of contributors from last years Cup-worthy team. That means pretty much everyone in the Boston dressing room knows whats coming this season.

Teams always play their best against the champions," Dennis Seidenberg said. "Everybody knows that in the locker room and is ready for the challenge. I really think that can only help us and make us better.

The Red Wings and Penguins both made it to the Finals in 2008 and 2009 with each time taking home one series win, and thats no small feat. But the Bs know that the long playoff run, short summer, and grueling upcoming season are all working against them as they start to crank things up for the first official day of training camp on September 16.

Nathan Horton didnt get to play in those final few games of the Stanley Cup Finals due to the concussion suffered at the hands of Aaron Rome in Game 3, and he definitely wants to get the full experience this time around.

Its such a great feeling," Horton said. "Im still on a high and I know a lot of the other guys are still as well. We know once it starts over were all even again, and its our time to win it again.

Thats what we wanted and its why were here. Its definitely going to be tough that were on top now and its tough to stay there. Everyone knows that and is prepared to play like we did last time. But thats the challenge.

Bruins management wants the players to get their rest and spend as much time away from the ice as possible before jumping into training camp in September a necessary step when so many are expecting a Stanley Cup hangover to hit them hard after playing an additional two months and 25 games of playoff hockey.

So the Bs will get as much rest as possible while getting themselves ready for next season, and be prepared for the mental and physical grind that awaits them as reigning Stanley Cup champs starting this fall.

Nathan Horton said that hes heard through the grapevine about some of the rumored post-concussion syndrome problems that Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has still been dealing with this summer. The Bs winger also said hes thanking his lucky stars that hes been symptom-free since a week or two after the Finals were over, and has been able to resume his normal workouts with any setbacks or issues.

Im not sure exactly, but Ive heard that hes still having troubles. I feel really lucky, said Horton. Concussions arent fun, obviously, and to have a bad one is tough. Im fortunate to feel good and not have any setbacks.

Tuukka Rask has recovered nicely from knee surgery and is 100 percent healthy and motivated heading into Bruins training camp next month. He also made some nifty plays at shortstop in his first game ever playing softball for Milan Lucics Rock and Jock Softball Charity Game, and the Finland native managed to make himself a human highlight reel in the process.

Daniel Paille spent most of his summer in Boston, and said that he's enjoyed getting to know his neighbors in the North End while exploring his NHL home base. The versatile Bruins winger said the pasta dinners and walks on Hanover Street were altogether enjoyable, but it did go by a little too quickly.

It went by quick, but I relaxed and really enjoyed it, said Paille. In certain parts of the city you get noticed, but in the downtown area I could really walk around without getting noticed. I made some really close friends in the North End. I definitely enjoyed the summer.

Paille also was the first NHL player to ever take the Cup on the Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist boat that travels around the Falls, and said that his outside-the-box day with the Cup was thoroughly enjoyable.

It was something Id thought about after we won. Doing that was one of the best things I could think of. It was a special moment and I was glad that I brought it on there. I asked the Cup custodian every time I wanted to move around with it, and he said okay as long as I didnt let go of it near the water. Obviously I had a tighter grip than normal on the Cup when it was near the water.

Dennis Seidenberg brought the Stanley Cup to Atlantic City in New Jersey with his family this summer instead of his native Germany, and laid out the reasons when he spoke to the media at Milan Lucics Rock and Jock Charity Softball Game on Wednesday night.

"My wife was pregnant with our third kid, so it would have been tough," he said. "I havent been back to Germany in five years, so it would have been a lot of travel and visiting different people. It would have been too much, so we decided to just stay back in the United States and take the time to relax a little bit.

The German defenseman is hoping for a repeat this season, so he can finally bring the Cup to his home country for the first time.

I should have taken it because its never been there before, said Seidenberg. But theres always a chance to do it a second time and get it back there next year.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Hockey Day in America. 

*Brian Boyle is the subject of trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he wants to stay a member of the Bolts. 

*Watch out for the Florida Panthers, who swept the road trip through California and are now back in playoff position for the first time in a long time. 

*It’s great to see play-by-play man Dave Strader back in the broadcast booth doing what he does best after his cancer diagnosis. 

*Hats off to the Bruins ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, for the sweet-looking Boba Fett sweaters worn during this weekend’s Star Wars night. 

*It’s pretty amazing when you’re an NHL player and a former first round pick, and you’re the one most known for being somebody else’s brother. That’s life for Dallas Stars D-man Jamie Oleksiak. 

*Interesting piece about sportswriting, politics and a couple of worlds that were destined to collide at some point. 

*For something completely different: For the 40h anniversary of Star Wars, the toys are being used to recreate classic movie scenes. 

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons.