Men’s Olympic hockey has gotten underway and it seems to be a good time to look at how the two and half week tournament will affect the team when NHL play resumes for the Boston Bruins Feb 26. The Bruins have five players in Sochi: Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and Loui Eriksson. For the Bruins, the effect of the Olympics needs to be looked at on a player by player basis.
Zdeno Chara: Undoubtedly the Bruins most important player, Chara already leads the team in time on ice (TOI) and will likely be leaned on heavily by team Slovakia. In their first game against team USA, Chara was second among Slovakian defensemen with 18:01TOI. While that is roughly seven minutes less than his average ice time for the Bruins this season, the room Chara needs to patrol is much bigger on an Olympic sized ice rink. Chara is used to playing big minutes in the NHL, but the extra 15 feet of ice he has to cover could mean extra fatigue for the 36-year-old defenseman.
Patrice Bergeron: While Bruins fans are accustomed to seeing him at center, the depth team Canada has at the center position has forced Bergeron to the wing. The change did not seem to affect Bergeron’s play as he assisted on two of Canada’s goals. Unlike Chara, it is doubtful Bergeron will have to play a lot of minutes because of the talent that is riddled throughout Canada’s roster. With his role being what it is, Bergeron should not be too adversely affected by his time in Sochi.
Tuukka Rask: If Zdeno Chara is the Bruins most important player, then Rask is surely a close second. Rask has proved this year he is among the NHL’s best goalies and they need him to make another deep playoff run. Although Rask did get the start in Finland’s first game of the Olympics, it is still unclear whether he or the San Jose’s Antti Niemi will get the majority of playing time. Splitting time with Niemi would definitely be a plus for Boston because it should keep Rask from playing too much. Bruins backup Chad Johnson has had some of his best games in net recently and he will likely get more starts when the Bruins start play again.
David Krejci: Like Bergeron, Krejci is one of the Bruins leaders in ice time so it will be interesting how much he plays in the Olympics. Krejci will likely get big minutes playing for the Czech Republic. It is unlikely the Czech team will advance too far into the tournament however due to their lack of an elite goaltender which will save Krejci from playing as many games as his other teammates.
Loui Eriksson: The one player that could use as much game action as possible is Eriksson. His struggles with injuries this year has kept him from really getting into a rhythm this year. He has looked better each game since returning from his second concussion and the chance to play consistent minutes in Olympic games should make him come back when the NHL resumes even stronger than when he left.