December 7, 2011
Jets give champs headacheNo Cup hangover, but loss to Winnipeg a pain
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - As anyone who’s ever over-imbibed knows, not all hangovers are created equal.
The same, of course, is true for hockey teams.
Both of which bring us to the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins, who didn’t exactly stumble into town with bloodshot eyes and stale champagne on their breath, Tuesday night.
Where most Cup winners are shells of their former selves the following season, the Bruins have cleaned up real good after throwing the mother of all hockey parties over the summer.
Oh, sure, they fell out of bed, knocked over the alarm clock and dragged themselves through October.
But whatever they managed to find on the shelf of the medicine cabinet worked like a charm. In fact, they ought to bottle it and offer it up for sale every June.
Because Lord Stanley knows there’s often a market for it.
“Mindset is probably the biggest thing about Cup hangovers,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “We did our best to try and avoid it, like everybody else. Our team mentally didn’t seem ready to start in September, even October.”
But when the cobwebs cleared, yikes.
Going into last night’s game against the Jets, the B’s were hotter than a five-dollar pistol, with 14 wins in their last 15 games.
That’s not so typical. Often, the haze and the headache last much longer.
Jets captain Andrew Ladd, a two-time Cup winner, experienced it with Carolina, five years ago. The Hurricanes won it all, then missed the playoffs.
“It is tough. It takes time,” Ladd said. “Part of the problem is just finding that level of excitement to play, after going from a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to pre-season and regular season — it’s just not the same intensity.”
Another part of the problem is you’re still mentally drained from the sheer exhaustion of the Cup chase.
“You play until June... it’s an extra month and a half, two months past everyone else,” Bruins thumper Shawn Thornton said. “Sometimes it takes a little bit to get emotionally engaged. I don’t know if it’s the Cup ... who knows.”
Oh, it’s the Cup, all right. And everything that’s poured into it.
I still remember Jonathan Toews saying how relieved he was to get away from all the appearances and back to playing hockey after his Blackhawks won it a year ago.
“In the summer time everybody’s grabbing at you,” Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk explained. “To going back and playing hockey, it’s just mellow. It’s kind of like a shock. Once you get past that nobody’s pulling at you anymore, and everyone’s gunning for you, then you kind of wake up and realize you have a job to do.
“And your goal is to win another one.”
The way the Bruins have been playing, the first repeat since the Red Wings pulled it off in 1997-98 isn’t out of the question.
The way the Jets have played of late, including Tuesday’s 2-1 win, a sip of the post-season for the former Atlanta Thrashers isn’t, either.
That’s three straight for the Jets, all with a similar clampdown finish. Get a lead, and guard it like it’s the last beer at the party.
OK, that’s a stretch from Manitoba to Massachusetts.
But the fact is the champs’ first regulation loss in 38 days came in the ’Peg.
The Jets could do a lot worse than emulate the team they just beat.
You could hear the admiration in head coach Claude Noel’s voice before the game.
“They’ve done a nice job building that team,” Noel said. “My hat goes off to how they’ve done that.”
And Noel’s Jets did a nice job against it, in front of another rabid crowd, albeit sprinkled with black and gold.
So the Bruins Cup hangover may be over.
But they left Winnipeg with a bit of a headache, just the same.