The Boston Bruins came within two minutes of forcing a seventh game in the Stanley Cup finals. Now they must wait nearly seven months until the next post-season.

So close. And now so far away.

“It’s got to be a fresh start” coach Claude Julien said. “When you win the Cup you’ve got to turn the page and say ‘We’ve got to do it all over again.’ That doesn’t change when you lose in the finals. We’ve got to turn the page and create ourselves another opportunity.”

With the core returning and several key additions the Bruins should reach the playoffs for the seventh straight season. And they took steps to secure their long-term future by signing centre Patrice Bergeron and goalie Tuukka Rask to eight-year contracts and general manager Peter Chiarelli to a four-year extension.

“We want to compete for the Stanley Cup every year” Chiarelli said. “And it’s my mandate my charge to do that.”

The Bruins made a strong run in last season’s finals as they went after their second championship in three years. They led Chicago 2-1 in Game 6 then allowed two goals in the last 76 seconds and the Blackhawks won 3-2 to take the Cup.

Boston finished 11th in goals scored then lost first-line right wing Nathan Horton to free agency and traded right wing Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars. But they replaced them with two accomplished scorers signing Jarome Iginla as a free agent and obtaining Loui Eriksson in the Dallas deal.

“It’s important every once in a while to get some fresh faces in” Julien said “and continue to create that excitement of being competitive and wanting to win every year.”

Here are five things to watch as the Bruins prepare for their opener Oct. 3 vs. Tampa Bay:

CLAUDE’S CLUB: Julien has led the Bruins to the playoffs in each of his six seasons repeatedly quieting talk that his job security is shaky. He is the third longest tenured coach in the NHL. Genial and reluctant to grab the spotlight he has led Boston’s disciplined style and won 62.7 per cent of his regular-season games with Boston.

“He came off of being fired twice and there were a lot of questions about him” Chiarelli said. “So obviously I knew what he was like — receptive to things so he could evolve with the rest of us.”

BACK IN ACTION: Bergeron is one of the best two-way centres in the NHL. Gregory Campbell is a solid checker as the fourth-line centre. Now both are back after being injured in the playoffs. Bergeron played some games against Chicago with torn rib cartilage a broken rib and a separated shoulder. He also learned after playing Game 6 that he had a collapsed lung. Campbell broke his right leg in Game 3 of Boston’s four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals.

Z MARKS THE SLOT: As if his slap shot wasn’t enough of a threat now 6-foot-9 defenceman Zdeno Chara is planting himself in front of the net on power plays. He did that in Monday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Washington Capitals in which he also scored on two slap shots.

“He creates some havoc in front of there” Julien said. “Z’s not just in front to screen Z’s in there for more than that.”

Chara is adjusting to the tactic but his long reach and big body provide a big target for deflections and tip-ins.