When the Boston Bruins
take the ice in Prague to open their season against the Phoenix Coyotes
, it will be their first meaningful game in 147 days.
But for coach Claude Julien
's team, those 147 days probably feel like 147 years.
That's because the Bruins started their summer vacation after one of the most painful playoff losses in NHL history. They not only relinquished a 3-0 series lead to the Philadelphia Flyers
in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but they also blew a 3-0 lead on home ice in Game 7 and lost 4-3 to become just the third team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series.
"The killer instinct was missing," veteran Bruins forward Mark Recchi
said after the devastating final-game loss at TD Garden. "What are you going to do? It's over and we've got a long summer to think about it."
The time for thinking is over. The time for moving forward has begun.
General Manager Peter Chiarelli started overhauling his roster for the upcoming season in June, acquiring forwards Nathan Horton
and Gregory Campbell
from the Florida Panthers
in exchange for defenseman Dennis Wideman
and draft picks, including the 15th selection in the 2010 Entry Draft.
Horton was the third pick of the 2003 Draft and has averaged nearly 24 goals per season during his six seasons with the Panthers.
The Bruins used the second pick in this year's draft to select Tyler Seguin
, the high-scoring center who compiled 48 goals and 58 assists in 63 games with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. The 18-year-old could contribute right away for the Bruins either at his natural position or on the wing.
"Anything is possible," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara
told the Boston Herald. "We have a good enough team to win all the way. If we stay healthy, yeah, this team is very strong."
There's plenty of depth to be found on this roster. Perhaps too much.
, David Krejci
, Patrice Bergeron
, Campbell and Seguin all can play center, which gives the Bruins some options. Seguin could start the season at center, with Bergeron moving to the wing. Savard, suffering from post-concussion symptoms that sidelined him late in the regular season, hasn't skated since training camp opened. He's expected to recover and return at some point, but for the time being, the logjam has been relieved.
There was talk during the offseason of the Bruins trading Savard, but nothing ever materialized. Should the roster hold to form through the preseason and Savard return to health, the Bruins can make the case they have the deepest group of centers in the League. They also look pretty good on the wings, too.
The newly acquired Horton could be the No. 1 right wing, with Blake Wheeler
, Michael Ryder
and 42-year-old Mark Recchi
rounding out the group. On the left side, there's bruising power forward Milan Lucic
; potentially Seguin; Daniel Paille
, one of the team's more reliable penalty killers; and bruiser Shawn Thornton
That list doesn't include Marco Sturm
, who scored 22 goals last season but will be rehabbing two torn knee ligaments, which he suffered in the Bruins' playoff series with the Flyers, until mid-November.
"We're going to try different things," Chiarelli said. "We've gone through line combinations prior to coming into this camp. We'll see how they fit. As far as Tyler playing center vs. wing, he'll probably stay at center for a bit."
The infusion of new talent – rookies Joe Colborne
and Zach Hamill
enter camp looking to crack the roster -- coupled with a healthy Savard (he played just 41 games last season) and Lucic (50 games) could be what this team needs to improve on its 196 goals last season, fewest in the League.
Chara once again will serve as the anchor along the blue line in what could be his final season with the Bruins.
The 33-year-old is entering the last year of his contract and his agent says his client is in no rush to work out a new deal. The 2009 Norris Trophy winner had just 7 goals last season after scoring 19 in 2008-09.
"Of course I want to stay in Boston and be part of this team the rest of my career," Chara told the Boston Herald. "I enjoy being a Bruin."
, acquired at the trade deadline from the Panthers last season, signed a four-year contract extension in June. He suffered a lacerated tendon in his arm and missed the final four games of the regular season and the entire playoffs.
If Chara plays with Johnny Boychuk
and Seidenberg is partnered with Matt Hunwick
, the final two spots will come down to a battle between Andrew Ference
, Mark Stuart
and Adam McQuaid
enters the season as the unquestioned No. 1 goaltender after supplanting Tim Thomas
The 23-year-old Rask was in net for the Bruins' collapse against the Flyers last season, but that showing didn't diminish his regular-season numbers. In 45 games, Rask was 22-12-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. He was a major reason the goal-starved and injury-plagued Bruins reached the second round of the playoffs.
"That's behind me," Rask told NESN.com about the postseason heartbreak. "It's a new year and a new start. We should be good."
With Thomas, the Bruins have a capable backup with a big salary. The 36-year-old has almost fully recovered from offseason hip surgery and carries a contract with a $5 million cap hit that runs through 2012-13. There were reports the Bruins were trying to trade Thomas, but for now he looks like he will be wearing the black and gold this season.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo