How does an NHL team respond coming off a long break? Bruce Cassidy, Bruins, harp on more than just R&R

Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Saturday’s loss at the hands of the rebuilding Rangers might have left a sour taste in their mouth, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone on Boston’s roster that was going to bemoan the team’s upcoming schedule — or lack thereof.

As part of their league-mandated bye week, the Bruins will not suit up in another regular-season matchup until Jan. 29 against the Jets — with Boston enjoying the luxury of at least eight straight days without a practice or game.

Aside from David Pastrnak, who will head to the NHL All-Star Game later this weekend, the Bruins won’t have to deal with any hockey-related obligations in the short term. For some players, a vacation is next on the docket. Others, some quality time with family. But for all — some vital rest & recovery during another grueling NHL regular-season campaign.

Still, given the tight race that has been the Eastern Conference standings, the Bruins won’t have much time to ease themselves back into a regular routine. Boston currently sits in third place in the Atlantic with a record of 27-17-5 (59 points), just one point behind second-place Toronto. But the two clubs in Wild-Card positioning, the Canadiens (59 points) and Penguins (58 points), aren’t making things any easier for the Bruins.

Yet, after spending most of the first four months of the regular season monitoring the standings while keeping an often banged-up roster afloat, Bruce Cassidy will be the first to say that both him, his staff and his players have all earned the right to unplug for a couple days.

“I think that gets hard — to say that we need to be in second place or first place or in the playoff mix,” Cassidy said earlier this week of the current standings landscape in the days leading into the break. “Now you're measuring yourself, which you eventually do — where’s everybody else and how we’re playing.

“I woke up this morning and saw seven teams that are within a point of each other after Tampa. … Are we going to be able to compete and catch Toronto at that point, because Tampa looks like it will be a difficult task for anybody, or can we at least maintain where we are and the team gets better and we have. Our January month has been a good month in terms of our points. The games we’ve lost. We’ve been in.”

As a whole, Boston has been solid in 2019 — posting a record of 6-3-1 so far in January before heading into the bye week. But how does a club carry any of that momentum over after having such a long stretch off? For Cassidy, it’s about more than just recharging your batteries and putting your skates back on.