The Bruins aren’t getting any younger as the NHL remains shut down, uncertain of how much longer a global pandemic will keep hockey teams from getting back on the ice.

Defenseman Zdeno Chara, the oldest player in the NHL, turned 43 last month. First-line center Patrice Bergeron is 34, the age that second-line center David Krejci turns next Tuesday. Still in his prime, Brad Marchand celebrates his 32nd birthday next month.

Key players, all of them. In theory, it seems, a prolonged interruption to a season would put older teams at a disadvantage because younger bodies can withstand more, are less locked into grooves and don’t take as long to start back up.

Bruins Coach Bruce Cassidy understands that perception, but said on a Zoom conference call with reporters Monday that he does not necessarily agree with it as it pertains to his team.

“I think that nobody knows until we get back out there. We do have some older guys who it might take a little longer, but I think they are true professionals and know how to keep in shape,” Cassidy said, “maybe better than some of the younger guys who just feel like, ‘Well, when we’re ready to go I can ramp it up.’ So I do believe some of the veteran guys know that they need to stay with it because it’s not a switch that you can turn on and off. That I believe works to our advantage. Now, getting your legs under you quicker, yeah, probably a younger guy … less aches and pains the next day. So I think it’s the recovery of the older guys that we have to monitor as much as anything. Less so the conditioning, more the recovery.”

Chara’s grueling, legendary offseason workouts defy his age, keep him forever younger than his age. Bergeron is such a relentless 200-foot pest, blocking opponents’ paths to victory in so many aspects of the game that he obviously does a great job of staying in top condition.

So Cassidy makes a good point in that it’s not how old as much as it is who is how old. But the late-season interruption is so different from anything anyone has experienced that it certainly adds a mysterious quality to trying to forecast how teams would stack up against each other if the season returns.

When the puck stopped, the Bruins, with 100 points in 70 games, were zeroing in on claiming the Presidents’ Trophy, awarded to the club with the best regular-season record. The Blues (94 points in 71 games) and the Avalanche and Lightning (92 points in 71 games) were next in the race for the trophy that’s nice, but not as nice as lighting a cigar.

The Presidents’ Trophy hasn’t been a particularly helpful tool in forecasting the postseason. None of the past six winners has made it to the Stanley Cup final.The 2012-13 Blackhawks are the last team to win both trophies in the same year.

As for intangibles, such as the hunger to win the ultimate prize, you have to like what both the Bruins and Lightning have going for them. Making it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup only to lose at home to the Blues very much gives the B’s a sense of unfinished business. The Lightning won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and were swept out of the first round by a Blue Jackets club that did a nice job of channeling its feisty coach’s personality. That shocker had to make the Lightning eager for the Stanley Cup playoffs to arrive.

When might that be? Nobody knows.

The league doesn’t have any urgency yet to consult coaches on how long a training camp would need to be, but if Cassidy is asked for his input, he’ll be ready to give it.

“That would depend, to me, entirely on have they been able to skate on their own at some point before we go?” Cassidy said. “So for example, we’re told we have to stay off the ice until June 30 and we start July 1st and no one’s been on the ice, then I think you have to have a minimum of I’d say at least two weeks to sort of get guys up and running. If they’ve been allowed to skate at our facility whether it’s in small groups, by themselves, large groups, whatever that’s determined, then that number could go down a little bit, but I can’t see anybody saying you’ve got to start in three or four days.”

What if the NHL cancels the rest of the regular season and resumes with the playoffs?

“Then I don’t see how, no matter what, you can get started before two weeks and not risk the safety of the players, so that you could build in some scrimmages,” Cassidy said. “I don’t know if it’s realistic to tell your team, ‘Hey, we’re going to play an exhibition and then turn right around and play a playoff game three days later.’ I mean, you’re really risking it there, so it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with once they determine are there regular-season games or not?”

The whole thing is interesting, and frustrating, particularly so for the Bruins, who were looking so good when hockey froze.


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