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Bruins stay grounded when the topic is travel

By John Powers
Globe Staff / June 12, 2011

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The Dawson City Nuggets had it much rougher than this. When they played the Ottawa Silver Seven for the 1905 Stanley Cup, it took them more than three weeks to get from the Yukon to Ontario by bicycle, foot, dogsled, stagecoach, boat, and train.

The Bruins already have been out and back from Vancouver twice in their Stanley Cup Final, and if they win Game 6 tomorrow night at TD Garden they’ll make another 5,000-mile round-trip and will have traveled the equivalent of more than halfway around the planet.

“That’s the way it is,’’ captain Zdeno Chara said yesterday afternoon, when he and his teammates returned from British Columbia after their third loss in as many games at Rogers Arena. “You can’t really complain about it or make excuses. Both teams have to travel the same distance. It’s just a part of the game.’’

Vancouver actually has logged considerably more mileage during the playoffs, flying an estimated 24,378 for its series with Chicago, Nashville, San Jose, and Boston. The Bruins have covered 15,155 in their journeys to Montreal, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and Vancouver, with the round-trip totals increasing dramatically in the last two rounds. But they’re not grousing about it.

“We get treated pretty well,’’ said Andrew Ference, who became used to five-hour flights with Calgary. “We’re not cramped up in little tiny seats. We get the charter flights and we’ve got a great crew that treats us like gold. The last thing I can do is sit here and complain about the way we travel. It’s the best way I’ve ever gone across the country. It’s no big deal.’’

Still, when they won the Cup in 1970 and ’72, the Bruins didn’t have to go coastal. The 1970 club had a six-game shuttle series with New York, then made one visit apiece to Chicago and St. Louis, traveling a total of 4,530 miles round-trip. The 1972 edition dismissed Toronto in five, swept St. Louis, and finished off the Rangers in six. Total mileage: 3,690.

But in the sea-to-shining-sea modern NHL, the Final is all about multiple time zones. Since 1982, there have been 10 series in which the rivals were at least 2,040 miles apart, most recently Anaheim-Ottawa (2,348 in 2007), Edmonton-Carolina (2,072 in 2006), and Calgary-Tampa Bay (2,291 in 2004). The Canucks have played in three of the four longest, traveling 2,447 miles to play the Islanders in 1982 and 2,428 to take on the Rangers in 1994.

They’re seasoned globetrotters, booking more miles (51,414.5) during the regular season than any club except San Jose and Phoenix. So the Canucks, who had the league’s best road record this season, hired a firm called “Fatigue Science’’ that helps them deal with syncopated body clocks, advising the team on sleep, nutrition, and travel schedules.

The Bruins have taken a common-sense approach to all this to-and-fro, starting with a no-red-eye philosophy. After both Games 2 and 5 they stayed overnight and flew home in the morning, landing at Logan in time for dinner. Yesterday, they ate breakfast at the hotel and were offered another on the plane, as well as lunch.

“It’s a lot better that you travel the next day,’’ said Brad Marchand. “You get a good night’s sleep after the game. You travel through the day. You get in and get some good food in you.’’

The playoff regimen isn’t dramatically different than it is on an extended road trip during the regular season. “You sleep as much as you can,’’ said Chara. “Obviously, rehydration is so important. Making sure that you’re getting your meals and snacks. It’s pretty much what you’ve done all season. You have to make sure that you don’t get away from that.’’

If there is any consolation about the numbing hours in the air, it’s that the Canucks don’t have it any easier. If there’s a shorter route to get here, they haven’t discovered it. “It’s the same for both teams, so throw that stuff out the window,’’ said Shawn Thornton. “There’s no excuses this time of year. It’s the Stanley Cup Final.’’

If the Bruins do have to buckle up and lift off once more, it will mean that they’ve forced the series to the limit and that they’ll be 60 minutes from winning a trophy that they’ve been chasing for 39 years. So there’ll be no belly-aching from the spoked-B set. “You put all that stuff behind you,’’ said Chris Kelly. “There’s time to sleep and rest all summer. Right now I feel good. I can’t speak for everyone but when I look around our locker room, guys look good.’’

They look decidedly better than Dawson City did after its picaresque adventure 106 years ago, when air travel was a fantasy. Ottawa turned down the visitors’ request for a few days’ postponement of the best-of-three series, then croaked them, 9-2 and 23-2, to keep the Cup. Had the Silver Seven had to play them in a best-of-seven, the Nuggets might have stood a chance.

John Powers can be reached at jpowers@globe.com.

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