Boston’s new captain, Patrice Bergeron, right, and gritty Brad Marchand provide veteran leadership for the Bruins. Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

The Boston Bruins open their season Thursday night against the New Jersey Devils, playing the first of their 56 games in a 115-day stretch.

That’s essentially playing every other night.

You might think a condensed schedule would be problematic with a roster that features a starting goalie who’ll turn 34 in two months, a backup who will be 36 when the playoffs start, and three of their four top forwards who are 35, 34 and 32 years old.

Quite the opposite, actually.

While there’s no Ponce de Leon and his fountain of youth working magic behind the scenes, the Bruins should be just fine getting into a semi-regular routine with no more wear and tear than any of the NHL’s other 30 teams.

One of the NHL’s best scorers, 24-year-old right wing David Pastrnak, was back on the ice Tuesday in a red noncontact jersey for first time since having surgery a little less than four months ago to fix his right hip. Originally due back in mid-February, he seems to be ahead of that pace.

Linemate Brad Marchand has been back at full strength at training camp after sports hernia surgery this offseason. He’s 32, but still plays with the energy, snarl and sandpaper of a younger man.

Charlie McAvoy becomes Boston’s lead defenseman with the loss of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

The team’s best defenseman, Charlie McAvoy, turned 23 four days before Christmas and will be a 23-minute-a-night, play-in-all-situations defender, taking the mantle from recently departed Zdeno Chara. Fellow defenseman Brandon Carlo is 24; Connor Clifton is 25, and Matt Grzelcyk is 27.

Left wing Jake DeBrusk enters his fourth NHL season at age 24, still awaiting a breakout where he puts it all together and avoids the peaks and valleys he’s experienced. Anders Bjork, ready to secure a full-time place in Boston’s lineup, is also 24. Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, trade acquisitions last February who never had the chance to properly acclimate to their new organization or teammates, begin the new season as 25-year-olds.

Depth, whether it’s in the lineup or on the taxi squad (and that’ll play a prominent role as the league tries to play despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic) is also littered with young guys chomping at the bit. Trent Frederic is 22, Jakub Zboril 23, Urho Vaakanainen 22, Jack Studnicka 21, Jeremy Lauzon 23. Even much maligned former first-round pick Zach Senyshyn is only 23. Most, if not all, will be called upon to tug on the Black and Gold at some point this winter and be expected to contribute.

Boston has a solid goalie tandem with Tuukka Rask, left, and backup Jaroslav Halak, but the team is keeping them apart to avoid losing both goalies because of coronavirus issues. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Even if there were a health issue with either of the goaltenders, Tuukka Rask or backup Jaroslav Halak, 22-year-old Jeremy Swayman (UMaine) and 23-year-old Dan Vladar are in the system, awaiting the call. But Coach Bruce Cassidy said Monday the team is trying avoid a crisis by keeping Rask and Halak apart, and hopefully avoid a situation like the one faced during the NFL season by the Denver Broncos, when all their quarterbacks were sidelined because of COVID-19 protocols.

Is anyone really concerned with 35-year-old newly minted captain Patrice Bergeron between Marchand and Pastrnak? No. Neither are they worried that there’s too much tread on 34-year-old David Krejci’s tires; he had an excellent regular season last winter and meshes nicely between DeBrusk and Kase.

If Kase isn’t up to holding down that spot all season, newcomer and trigger happy Craig Smith will undoubtedly fill it. Right, now the 31-year-old is slated to ride shotgun on Charlie Coyle’s right, with Ritchie rounding out the third line.

The Bruins bowed out of the 2020 playoffs in a Game 5 loss to Tampa Bay on Aug. 31. When they reconvened to begin this new season on Jan. 3, it was a full four months of rest, recovery and mental relaxation. Contrast that to the previous season, when the Bruins played Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final on June 12 and began training camp exactly three months later. That shorter-than-usual summer break obviously didn’t affect them in 2019-20, when the Bruins won 44 of their 70 games and finished with 100 points and the Presidents’ Trophy.

There are certainly no nights to be taken off when more than one-quarter of the season has been lopped off; points will be at even more of a premium. The Bruins still have plenty of experience, guile and gumption that have gotten them through difficult stretches before, and despite the losses of Chara and power-play quarterback Torey Krug on defense, there’s no reason to believe that will stop now.


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