BOSTON — Most of the Boston Bruins are looking forward to seeing the “2011 Stanley Cup Champions” banner hanging from the rafters at the TD Garden.
Coach Claude Julien is more concerned about what happens next.
“It’s going to be an emotional night, and somehow we’re going to have to find a way to shift into gear here and realize that we also have a game to win,” Julien said at the team’s media day this week as he looked ahead to the regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Flyers. “And that’s a challenge in itself.”
The Bruins are planning a pregame ceremony for Thursday night to raise their sixth NHL championship banner and recognize the team that earned it by beating the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Along the way, they eliminated the Flyers, sweeping them in the second round one year after Philadelphia rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Flyers captain Chris Pronger said it will be tough to have to watch the pregame festivities, but he hopes it will just make them hungrier for one of their own.
“It’s never fun when you have to go into the opposing team’s building and there’s a ceremony, especially one that’s as significant as this one,” Pronger said. “You can use that to your advantage. You can look and see the emotions of what they’re doing and hope you’re doing the same thing next year.”
Bruins president Cam Neely would not divulge any details of the ceremony in order to maintain the surprise for the fans. But Julien is already worrying about how his team will respond to the emotions — not just in the first game, but for a whole season when other teams will be aiming at the defending champs.
“We earned that right, and our fans earned that right to experience it. That’s just a part of winning a Stanley Cup,” he said. “I think our team is mature enough to be able to handle that.”
Julien and general manager Peter Chiarelli have already discussed fighting the possible hangover that often comes a year after a team wins a championship. Chiarelli said he discussed strategies with several previous winners, and the only consistent advice was that it’s real, and unavoidable.
Among the concerns: The players will be tired, either mentally or physically, after the shortest offseason in franchise history.
“I hate harping on it because sometimes I think it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Chiarelli said. “But all the people I’ve talked to have said that it does show itself up in some shape or form. So we’re just going to have to be on top of it.”
The Bruins won their sixth Stanley Cup title in June and the franchise’s first since 1972. It will be the first banner-raising ceremony for the team since Neely’s No. 8 was retired in 2004.
“It’s a long time coming for a lot of our fans,” said Neely, who retired in 1996 and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005. “We’ve had fans that have waited 39 years, we’ve had fans that have waited 3 years. … Our community — the hockey community in Boston and New England has really deserved this. They’ve supported the Bruins for a lot of years.”
Tim Thomas won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, and he’ll be back along with almost all of the players from last season’s team, starting with Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg on defense and Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Milan Lucic on offense.
Playoff phenom Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, a rookie last season, will have another year of experience.
“I think you get a taste of winning; it’s a pretty good taste,” Neely said. “We’ve got a great group of guys, great character, still fairly young for the most part that I think aren’t tired of winning yet.”
Missing will be Mark Recchi, who retired, and Michael Ryder, who left as a free agent. Marc Savard is still out with post-concussion syndrome, but Nathan Horton, who took a frightening hit in Game 3 of the finals and missed the rest of the series, is back.
“They say that chemistry plays a (big) part in having success, and I feel we still got that chemistry, obviously, with the same guys,” Julien said. The guys that have come in … have been accepted and done a great job at being accepted. So I think there’s going to be a smooth transition.”