Philadelphia Flyers' Carter Hart, left, blocks a shot by Boston Bruins' Brad Marchand during an NHL hockey game on March 10, 2020, in Philadelphia. The NHL Players Association is voting on the details of a proposed playoff format and return to play. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Credit: Matt Slocum | AP

The questions hung over the rink everywhere the Bruins went: When would they pay the price of such a long season/postseason followed by such a short offseason? When would they hit the wall and fade down the Atlantic Division standings?

Never and never.

It appeared as if both were happening during a nine-game December stretch in which they won one game, lost four in regulation, three in overtime and one in a shootout. Didn’t happen. They picked themselves up off the ice, regained their mojo, and went back about their business as the most consistent, best all-around hockey team on the planet.

When the league shut down, the Bruins were the only team in the NHL with 100 points. They were well on their way to home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. Then the shutdown hit. Their reward for winning the President’s Trophy? They get to be one of four teams in each conference to skip the best-of-fives series that will allow the eight winners to gain entry into the 16-team Stanley Cup playoffs. So instead of being one team with a special advantage, the Bruins will be one of eight.

The fact that the Bruins must play a three-game round robin with the other top three finishers in the Eastern Conference — the Lightning, Capitals and Flyers — to determine their ultimate seeding (anywhere from No. 1 through No. 4) rubs some the wrong way. Plus, the Bruins were so hot when the shutdown hit, winning 16 of 20 games. All that momentum went into hibernation, taking much of the world with it during the early days of a global pandemic still spreading. Not only that, they won’t be playing any games at home. So much for home-ice advantage.

Fret over the unfairness of the seeding, the untimeliness of the shutdown, the neutral ice, etc., if you like, but that’s a loser’s lament. The Bruins are winners and winners tackle the challenge at hand and do so with confidence teeming. They won’t waste any time bemoaning getting cheated out of home ice, which is a tad overrated in hockey anyway. The road team won 5 of 7 games in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.

The Bruins instead will focus on the strengths they have going for them heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. For one, the Bruins have rare team chemistry, deepened by a core group having stayed together for so long and experiencing so much success.

Whereas other clubs might struggle to regain chemistry on the power play, the Bruins have that so buttoned-up that they’ll be able to show up for an alumni game 15 years from now and put on a clinic. With Torey Krug running the point, Patrice Bergeron as bumper, Jake DeBrusk retrieving pucks in front of the net, David Pastrnak blasting away, and Brad Marchand doing a little bit of everything and doing it well because that’s who he is as a hockey player, the Bruins won’t have any trouble getting that unit up to speed. Same for the first line of Bergeron flanked by Marchand and Pastrnak.

As for the prevailing wisdom that young players are more suited to bouncing back from a long layoff, consider why the B’s two oldest skaters, Zdeno Chara, 43, and Bergeron, 34, have been able to stay so good for so long. They treat their bodies with great care and train rigorously. Instead of viewing them as rusty, consider the advantages of the shortened season. Their bodies won’t be as beat up as they would have been with more games.

Also, some posit that younger goalies will have the advantage because it won’t take them as long to get their reflexes back in shape. A counter to that thinking: A younger goalie might have quicker reflexes, but his visual systems aren’t as sophisticated because his eyes haven’t been tracking pucks for as long. Think: baseball hitters. Young batters don’t see breaking balls as well because they haven’t seen as many, but react better to fastballs. Why wouldn’t the same be true of goalies?

In the Bruins’ final game before the shutdown, Tuukka Rask celebrated his 33rd birthday with his 50th career shutout and fifth of this season. He stopped 36 shots and the Flyers’ nine-game winning streak that night.

This layoff will be slightly longer than the one from Game 7 to opening night and will have a shorter preparation time than the preseason, so this isn’t a perfect comparison, but look at how well Rask bounced back from his last long layoff. His 1.41 goals-against average in October was his best of any month and included two shutouts. His .951 save percentage tied with January for his best month.

And then there is the unfinished-business motivational fuel that no layoff could dilute. Heading into Game 7, the Bruins had scored 21 goals, the Blues 14. Those numbers meant nothing, of course. The only ones that did were Blues 4, Bruins 2. If the B’s draw close enough to the Cup to sniff it again they’re not about to let it slip through their fingers. The arena will be empty this time, but hoisting the Cup will feel just as rewarding.

Beware the Bruins. Don’t pity them.