The Boston Bruins will be returning to the ice after their 17-days off because of the Olympic break. Although they will be playing 18 games in just 33 days, they did catch a break, as their schedule the first week back has them facing teams currently at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
In their first five games after the Olympic break, Boston will face opponents with a combined record of 96-110, including the two worst teams in the Eastern Conference, the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres. The other two teams Boston will see are the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals, the latter they will play twice in six days. Although they have not yet played the Capitals this season, the Bruins have faced the other three teams eight times this season and have an impressive 7-1 record combined against them.
Heading into the break, the Bruins were playing some of their best hockey of the season, going 7-1-2 in their last 10 games. That trend should continue if the teams they play are true to their records.
The excellent play of Loui Eriksson while he was representing team Sweden in Sochi, if continued, will also contribute to the success of the Bruins during their return. Eriksson, who has not been able to show off his full abilities because of concussion problems, showed off some of the skills that made him a valuable trade asset for the Dallas Stars. The Swedish forward scored two goals, one assist, and had a +2 rating. He was also one of the leaders in time on ice among forwards and saw a lot of time on the penalty kill. Going into the Olympics, it was important for Eriksson to get as much ice time as possible, and he did just that, helping his team make it to the gold medal game.
In addition to the play of Eriksson, there was another positive for the Bruins; none of their players got hurt. That may seem like a small victory, but if you ask the New York Islanders, who lost their captain John Tavares, returning from Sochi without any serious injuries was not a given heading into the games.
The improved play of Eriksson combined with the weak competition they will be facing should make for a successful first week back from the Olympics for the Bruins. Key members of the team, like Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla, should also pick up right where they left off heading into the break.
The Bruins first game will be on Wednesday at 7:30 pm at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo against the Sabres. It will be the fourth meeting between the two teams this season with the Bruins winning their last matchup 4-1 in Boston on Dec 21. The highly anticipated return of NHL action should bring an exciting and successful first week back from the Olympic break for the Boston Bruins.