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Bruins looking ahead, putting Cup disappointment last season behind them

Have won four of first five with lineup largely same as Game 7 against Blues

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Dust hung in the air. Sections of the ninth floor remained unfinished. New seats were still being installed, as workers frantically tried to ready TD Garden hours before the puck dropped on the Boston Bruins' home opener. It seemed the least-changed thing on Causeway Street on Saturday was the Bruins themselves.

With only a few exceptions -- newcomer Brett Ritchie, the then-injured Chris Wagner, the then-scratched Connor Clifton - the Bruins had nearly the same lineup that skated off the TD Garden ice devastated on June 12, after falling 4-1 in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues.

Not that the Bruins were thinking about that game four months later.

"I really didn't until you just brought it up," forward Charlie Coyle admitted before the game, in which the Bruins beat the New Jersey Devils 3-0. 

Video: NJD@BOS: Bergeron pokes home rebound on power play

They have moved on, seemingly. Onto a new season. A new team. New challenges. They are looking ahead, not behind, to a future that could certainly have them right back in the Stanley Cup Final again, especially if the early returns can be believed.

Through five games -- including four on a mettle-testing season-opening West Coast road trip -- the Bruins have four wins, and had a two-goal lead in their only loss, with another chance to test themselves on Monday against the Anaheim Ducks (1 p.m. ET; SN, NESN, PRIME, NHL.TV.

"It helps having pretty much our entire group from last year again," forward Brad Marchand said. "A couple new guys but for the most part we're the same. It makes it very easy to find chemistry and to just roll back into the season and keep going. I think that's kind of been our mentality is we'll just keep the ball rolling. We know we compete hard. We know we have a good group."

There is an easy confidence about this team. Many of the players have been together for years, some for a decade or more. They know each other's tendencies. They know the system. They know where to be and what to expect, even if they might still be figuring out a dressing room in which the spoked-B logo has flipped from the floor to the ceiling and the muted lighting seems designed to set a spa-like mood. 

Video: NJD@BOS: Nordstrom cleans up in front to double lead

At the same time, they also know that this year is not last year. Nothing is guaranteed, as they found out in a Game 7 that they seemed destined to win -- but did not. 

It is not easy to make it to the Stanley Cup Final. It is not easy to get over losing a Stanley Cup Final. 

But on Saturday the Bruins seemed optimistic that they will start building toward something equally great, perhaps something even better. 

"It's a new year," forward Sean Kuraly said. "We've got a new [dressing] room. We've got new digs. That's behind us. We've got a new year, everyone's got a clean slate this year. We're just trying to play good hockey and last year is all gone. We're looking forward."

That continues with the Ducks in town, a team that has also managed four wins in their first five games, a good start for a team that struggled last season. 

Then the Bruins play three straight against their biggest rivals in the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday at TD Garden and a home and home against the Toronto Maple Leafs, away on Saturday and in Boston on Oct. 22.

A Stanley Cup Final rematch looms against the Blues at home on Oct. 26. That might bring back a few memories.

Still, for now, the Bruins are only focused on the future, on getting through all the firsts of a season, all the milestones that bring a team to the meat of the schedule, that form the basis of a team that could turn into a championship-caliber club. 

"We looked forward to doing this, just getting hockey back here at the Garden, seeing the fans again, playing in this building," Coyle said. "We love that."

The pomp is done. The introductions have been made. The players have been acknowledged. The last vestiges of last season have been left behind, relegated to the past. 

"New year, new start," Coyle said. "[That loss] will stick with you. It will. But we have a fresh start to start something new. I think that's our focus. Just nice to be able to start fresh right now. Start from scratch and get another crack at it. We're excited about that."

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