BOLTON, Mass. -- The shortened offseason that comes after winning the Stanley Cup is a burden any of the 30 NHL teams willingly would endure.
However the Boston Bruins, two years after winning the Cup, are in the other boat as they prepare for the start of training camp. In June, they lost Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to the Chicago Blackhawks. The two teams went into the offseason with different emotions. The Bruins know what the Blackhawks will be going through this fall, as there will be plenty of talk about ring presentations, banner raisings and the so-called "Stanley Cup hangover" in the Windy City.
Meanwhile, the Bruins will just be another team, albeit one that had less time to recuperate from the previous season than 28 other clubs. And they won't be dealing with the hype that surrounded their return to action in 2011 after they beat the Vancouver Canucks to win the Cup.
"Well, it's a lot easier to forget about it, right? Because it didn't wind up the way we wanted," Bruins coach Claude Julien said Monday prior to the team's annual golf tournament at The International.
After the Bruins celebrated the summer away, and went through all the early season pomp and circumstance that came with entering the 2011-12 season as defending champion, Julien and his staff made sure to outlaw any mental or physical reminders of the prior season's triumph -- no more hats, shirts or pictures with the Cup.
There will be no need to do the same with Boston's Eastern Conference championship merchandise. In fact, some players might want to keep those possessions around to remind them that they weren't able to close the deal and turn that gear into Stanley Cup championship mementos.
"I think it should motivate us a lot," Bruins center and alternate captain Patrice Bergeron said. "I mean, every year that you don't necessarily accomplish what you're there for, it's always motivation -- extra motivation -- that should help you the next year. I think the previous year [in 2012] was different losing in the first round. Obviously it was a different and very bitter feeling knowing that we could've gone a lot further. Last year, we've gone all the way but we came up short. And obviously I think it hurts even more because you're so close. ... I think refocusing is very important also. We can't really think too much about last year, but we need to use that as motivation for sure."
There also was a sunny side to coming within two wins of the Cup.
"You have to move on and you take the positives that we had from the season," defenseman Adam McQuaid said. "You know, you get that close, there's a lot of good things that happen. And then you get kind of … I guess you look forward to the next season and the possibilities it might bring, and hopefully we can get to that point and come out on the winning end this year."
The Bruins' golf tournament served as the first time the players, coaching staff and front office had assembled since the Cup Final. Bergeron and fellow center Gregory Campbell were two players in a much better physical state than they were in June. Bergeron said he's still a little tender in the rib cage area, but for the most part he's recovered from the punctured lung, separated shoulder and rib injuries that he fought through in Game 6 against the Blackhawks. Campbell has been skating for a few weeks after a long summer of rehabilitating the broken leg he sustained during the Eastern Conference Final. Both veterans expect to be healthy when training camp opens.
New faces Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson used the gathering to continue to immerse themselves in the Bruins culture. Both players have been skating with their new teammates in informal practices for more than a week. In the past couple years it's been rare to see such high-profile newcomers in the mix for the Bruins. General manager Peter Chiarelli mostly has kept together the same cast season to season.
However, varying circumstances led to the departures of Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Andrew Ference. Iginla and Eriksson are the big names expected to take their place. A slight tweak to Boston's lineup might have been just what the team needed coming off two appearances in the Cup Final in three years.
"I mean there's … two sides to it," Bergeron said. "You don't always want to see guys leaving. And you know, that being said, the fact that we do have some new guys, new faces coming in that want to win, I think it does help you as a team for sure. I think you see the motivation in these guys' eyes and you want to, I guess, do the same thing when you step on the ice yourself. So I think it's just good to have these guys with us."
Although his team hasn't formally hit the ice yet, Julien can tell that his returning players still are driven to succeed. But if the new players can make that fire burn even hotter, the coach welcomes anything that will help produce a different ending than the one from last season.
"I think our guys we had here last year, I know the feeling in the dressing room, even by talking to them now, there's a will to want to get back there. Guys seem hungry enough," Julien said. "But bringing in guys, Iginla and Eriksson haven't won and they want to win it badly enough, it just makes us that much better. You've got some guys with experience that know how to do it and you hope when the time comes that we're there, number one. Second of all, I've always said that you've got to be playing your best hockey of the season at that time to get there, so you've got to make sure that happens and once you get there, those guys with the experience and the hunger, they'll definitely make our team that much better."
If this new-look Bruins club performs the way the players, staff and management believe it will, this time next year they might be back to dealing with all those championship distractions.
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