BostonBruins.com - The NHL may be taking a two-week break, and most of the Bruins' roster getting some well-deserved rest as a result, but five Bruins are embracing the pressure-packed atmosphere of the Olympics on the world stage.
Patrice Bergeron (Canada), Loui Eriksson (Sweden), David Krejci (Czech Republic) and Tuukka Rask (Finland) all flew over to Sochi, Russia on Sunday, a day after the team capped off their strong push to the Olympic Break with a 7-2 route of the Ottawa Senators.
| Bookmark "Bruins in Sochi" Homepage >>
The Captain will be leading Slovakia's squad for the second time, and suiting up in his third straight Winter Olympics (it's his fourth time heading to the Games).
Meanwhile, Bergeron and Team Canada will be aiming to defend the gold medal they took home from Vancouver in 2010.
Krejci and Eriksson are also participating in their second Olympics, while Rask was tabbed by Finland for his first Olympic experience.
BostonBruins.com - When Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli addressed media prior to the Olympic Break, the state of the Black & Gold unfolded from his perspective.
After 57 games, Boston sits first in the Atlantic Division with 78 points and a 37-16-4 record.
"I think our team has been, as always, our structure has been good. I think we have improved our ability to score," said Chiarelli, before the Bruins capped off their push to the Olympic Break with a 7-2 performance over Ottawa on February 8. "I think our depth has been outstanding - through the forwards that we brought up and now you see the D in there."
The Bruins will finish out their regular season with 25 games in a month and a half that includes eight back-to-backs. Knowing it would be a tough, compressed schedule ahead, they put themselves in a solid position heading into the final stretch run.
"There are not many games left, so you just want to think about continuing good habits, continuing structure."
BostonBruins.com - "Here's Slovakia, and the Captain of the Boston Bruins carries in the flag."
Zdeno Chara, laden with Team Slovakia gear, emerged into Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, leading his country's delegation of athletes.
He was beaming.
Walking into a stadium of more than 40,000 people for the Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics on Friday, he was the proud face of Slovakia.
The announcement was heard by those all across the United States, tuning into NBC's broadcast.
The genuine happiness in his smile, his steady walk and his reverent glance at the flag said it all.
BOSTON, MA - The objective was simple: get as many points as possible heading into the two-week Olympic Break.
With a dominant 7-2 win over Ottawa on Saturday, the Bruins ended their final segment with win No. 8 and 18 points in their past 11 games.
The TD Garden crowd appreciated the send-off.
Patrice Bergeron put the night in drive, and the the Bruins took over, never letting up. Aside from the one regulation loss in their recent stretch of success, that's been the case every game.
"Our guys can certainly go in and get that rest," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "They’ve earned it in my mind."
"And I know the group we have here, they’ll be ready to come back and get back to action here."
"I was pretty impressed with our whole approach to this game, where there could have been a lot of distractions and everything else," said Julien.
"Our guys just played so well. The puck was moving well, good decisions all around. It was a real solid game for us and a great way to finish."
BostonBruins.com - The Bruins knew they would be without Zdeno Chara for two games.
The Captain was traveling to Sochi, Russia to carry his native Slovakia's flag in the Olympic Opening Ceremony on February 7.
They knew his absence would be felt, as any player's is, but they also knew that they would have to get the job done.
"Obviously I would never have made this decision without talking to the team – management, coaches and obviously players," Chara had reiterated after the Bruins' 3-1 win over Vancouver on February 4, his last game before departing for Sochi.
"It would be pretty selfish if I were to make that decision on my own. This was made as a group and that was the only way I would accept it. So I really appreciate it again and it means a lot to me. Again, thank you to all who made that decision."
Since the honor was first announced back on January 16, it was a non-issue with the team, and for Head Coach Claude Julien.
"When you look at what Zee has done for this club, I think it's an easy decision to make, because you're carrying your country's flag at the Olympics," Julien had said that day in Dallas.
WILMINGTON, MA - When the Bruins hit the ice for practice on Friday afternoon at Ristuccia Arena, Loui Eriksson was not with the group.
The winger took a stick to the face during the first period of Thursday night's game in St. Louis, and had to get some stitches and repairs that kept him off the ice until the start of the second. He finished out the game, but needed a few more repairs on Friday.
"Loui's doing okay. The only reason he missed [practice] is he's obviously getting some dental work done," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. "And making sure he's all fixed up before tomorrow [against Ottawa] and before he leaves for the Olympics."
"So he should be in the lineup tomorrow. There's no reason why he shouldn't, but I think it's going to be a long day for him, getting his mouth fixed."
It's been a rough season for Eriksson health-wise with the two concussions and periods of recovery. This scenario won't keep him out of the lineup, but Julien has some sympathy for his winger.
ST. LOUIS, MO - The Bruins only have one regulation loss in their past 10 games.
On Thursday night, they found themselves down 2-0 heading to the third period against the Blues at Scottrade Center. The Black & Gold fought back to force overtime - and earn a point.
The end result wasn't ideal, especially given their effort for 60-plus minutes, but the Bruins could leave this one knowing they gave themselves an opportunity to pick up their eight win in their past 10 games.
In the end, they'll find some satisfaction in it.
"We knew that if we kept going, and we got one by him, we were going to get two," said Brad Marchand, who roofed a rebound from a Johnny Boychuk drive past Jaroslav Halak to force overtime with 8:36 left in the third period. "And luckily, Dave got that first one, and we were able to get another one, and it was a big point for our team."
Despite outshooting the Blues 24-18 through two periods, the Bruins found themselves trailing 1-0 after the first, and faced a two-goal deficit en route to the final frame.
But the frustration wasn't setting in, and at the 9:16 mark of the third, David Krejci ripped a shot from the high slot to get Boston on the board. After crisscrossing with Jarome Iginla up top, Krejci timed his shot perfectly with Milan Lucic's screen.
ST. LOUIS, MO - The Bruins face the Blues in their second and final meeting on the season Thursday night in St. Louis.
For Boston, their focus is on the strong team game that's made them successful in their recent stretch, having lost only once in their past seven tilts.
The focus outside the locker room will undoubtedly be on the absence of Captain Zdeno Chara, who traveled to Sochi, Russia for the Olympic Opening Ceremony to carry Slovakia's flag.
"As a D corps, we're all going to have to step up and play well," Dougie Hamilton said following the team's optional pregame skate at Scottrade Center. "I think we're ready for that, but it's definitely going to be a challenge."
The challenge will come with upped minutes, and getting matchups, without being able to send the 6-foot-9, 255-pound shutdown defenseman to the ice in key situations.
David Warsofsky, who was first drafted by the Blues in 2008 (and traded to his hometown Bruins in 2010 for Vladimir Sobotka), is the left-side defenseman slotting into the lineup. He obviously won't be filling the void.
"Yeah, I don't think I can count that high, how many minutes he plays," the blueliner with four NHL games under belt laughed. "But I just want to play my game and I know the whole D corps back there will step up and I'm looking forward to it."
WILMINGTON, MA - On a snowy Wednesday in New England, the Bruins gathered at Ristuccia Arena for a skate before traveling to St. Louis, in advance of their game against the Blues on Thursday night.
Two games now remain for the Black & Gold before the NHL's Olympic break. They've made a strong push so far, garnering a 7-1-1 record in their past nine games, with only one regulation loss to Montreal and a shootout loss to the Blackhawks.
The consistency in their "team game" has been the biggest factor.
And while their recent success happens to fall before Olympic fever sets in around them, the talk around the locker room hasn't necessarily focused on the international event. The focus, simply, has just been on a game-by-game approach, picking up as many points as possible.
BOSTON, MA - The Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks are in different positions right now.
But that won't stop Tuesday night at TD Garden being a heated affair, naturally, in their second and final meeting of the season.
The Bruins are focusing on continuing the consistency they've built in their play, going 6-1-1 with only one regulation loss in their past eight games. They got back to their team game in a 4-0 shutout of the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
"I thought we were skating pretty well the whole 60 minutes and it was a good team effort so we have to keep our feet moving, and try to get the first goal, and go from there," said alternate captain David Krejci, following the team's morning skate at TD Garden.
The Canucks, meanwhile, are coming off a 2-0 loss to Detroit on Sunday night, and have now lost four straight games.
Boston had to halt Edmonton's three-game win streak, but facing a desperate team like Vancouver trying to turn their game around can often present more of a challenge.
"A desperate team is always a challenge, and we know that they're going to play desperate hockey," said alternate captain Chris Kelly. "You know, whenever you lose four games in a row, and expectations are extremely high like they are for that team, they're going to come out with their best game, and we need to be ready for that."