BOSTON - The Boston Bruins will start this season 148 days after they ended the last with a stunning collapse. They'll do it 6,276 kilometres from the scene of that improbable flop.
Enough time and space to leave it all behind?
"People asked me questions about what happened," forward Milan Lucic said Wednesday before the team left for four games in Europe, "so it kind of stays fresh in your mind because people want answers, but it's tough to give answers when I don't even know the answers."
Boston seemed set for a long playoff run when it won the first three games of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers. But it dropped the last four, even blowing a 3-0 lead and losing 4-3 in the finale.
The Bruins begin the regular season in Prague with two games against the Phoenix Coyotes on Oct. 9 and 10. Before that, they'll play two exhibition games, in Belfast and Prague. They were scheduled to fly to Northern Ireland right after Wednesday night's exhibition game in Boston against the Washington Capitals.
That journey could be the next step in lightening the burden of their lost opportunity.
"We can't keep dwelling on something that's happened and you've got to learn from it and get better and be a better person, a better player and a better teammate." forward Mark Recchi said at the Bruins' annual media day, "and if you can do that, we're going to be good, and 12 days together is going to help a lot."
Recchi, entering his 23rd NHL season, said he's already played three times in Prague. He's had other games in Russia, Germany and Finland.
The players will have time to see the sights, but their best souvenirs might be four points if they win both games against the Coyotes.
"It's still business as usual when it comes to training and doing the right things," Recchi said. "We're going to be together for 12 days and no families, no kids, no distractions. So no excuses."
The trip to Europe breaks the comfortable routine of training camp—a long trans-Atlantic flight, a different time zone, unfamiliar practice rinks—but could start a successful season.
The Chicago Blackhawks began last season in Finland where they split two games with the Florida Panthers. Then they returned to North America where they won four of their first five games—and went on the Stanley Cup championship.
"I think everyone feels like we're right on the cusp," Bruins forward Blake Wheeler said, "and we're excited to, hopefully, take over the top."
The Bruins spent Sunday and Monday training in Brattleboro, Vt., and feel they bonded well. With forward Tyler Seguin, the second pick in the draft, and newcomers Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell and Jordan Caron, the team building process grew.
"It's different now than when we first arrived. We know everyone," the 18-year-old Seguin said. "The two days in Vermont helped me bond with guys I haven't really talked to before."
He knew, of course, how last season ended. But he said he didn't watch the final game because he was playing hockey.
Coach Claude Julien doesn't want his players to focus on the playoff failure, but he doesn't want them to forget it either.
"You can't have it weigh you down this year," he said, "but you've got to keep it in the bank so that at one point you may need to use that as a motivation to make sure it never happens again."
Centre David Krejci, who shared the Bruins scoring lead last season with Patrice Bergeron, played for the Czech Republic in this year's Olympics.
"It should be fun," he said. "It was always my dream to play in the NHL and now I can play for my home crowd and in my country."
Wheeler, a Minnesota native, said he's never played outside North America.
"I went to Hawaii once," he said with a smile. "I didn't play hockey, though."
Now they'll all be together—the rookies and the veterans, the frequent flyers and the new travellers, the holdovers from last year's disappointment and the additions who didn't even watch the team unravel.
"You have to move forward. It's something that we can't bring back," captain Zdeno Chara said. "We also have to take it as a challenge so that we have some unfinished business for this year. I think everybody's extremely motivated."