Season Preview: Boston
By Shawn Hutcheon, TheFourthPeriod.com
Boston Bruins began last season as the defending Stanley Cup Champions, however,
the combination of the long playoff run combined with the short off-season saw
Boston get off to a slow and disappointing start.
The Bruins won only three of their first 10 contests, but recovered and
dominated the NHL during the months of November and December, losing only three
of their next 26 games. As the season concluded, Boston returned to earth and
finished the season with 102 points and were first in the Northeast Division.
They were second in the Eastern Conference and took on the Washington Capitals
in the conference quarterfinal round. In a tight checking series, Washington
eliminated Boston in seven games. A series that saw four overtime tilts and
every game decided by one goal.
During the summer, the club bolstered it forward lines by dealing for Chris
Bourque from the Capitals, and re-signing forwards Daniel Paille, Brad Marchand,
Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, along with Head Coach Claude Julien. At the 2012 NHL
Draft, the organization chose goaltender Malcolm Subban from the Ontario Hockey
League's Belleville Bulls with the 24th overall pick in the first round.
Boston boasts four forward lines that have speed, size, grit, strong defensive
style of play (five Bruins enjoyed a plus/minus of plus-30 or more in 2011-12)
and scoring ability. Super sophomore Tyler Seguin took the reins and led the
Bruins in scoring. He lit the lamp 29 times and assisted on 38 others to
register 67 points. He was also a plus-34 which was second best in the NHL.
Seguin's linemate Patrice Bergeron put up 64 points, placing him second in team
scoring, conversely, Bergeron was first in the league with a plus-36. There is
no doubt, being first in plus/minus played a role in his being awarded the Selke
Trophy as the circuit's best defensive forward. By the way, Seguin and Bergeron
along with Brad Marchand form Boston's second line. The team's top trio of David
Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton bring a physical presence that is
unmatched in the NHL while the other two forward units can shut down an
opponent's top scorers and score timely goals, as well.
The Bruins' defense is known for its size and physicality, anchored by captain
and 2009 Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara, who was sixth in team scoring in
2011-12 with 52 points. He came away from the season with the third best
plus/minus (+33) in the NHL and was a finalist for the Norris Trophy for the
second consecutive year. After Chara, the B's employ one of the most underrated
defensemen in the league in Dennis Seidenberg. The German native thrives on the
heavy going in the corners and in front of the net and will dish out devastating
open ice body checks when the opportunity presents itself. Andrew Ference plays
his best when he uses his speed to win races to loose pucks and moves them
quickly and deftly to teammates, which he does routinely. The remaining members
of the defensive units Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk have their names engraved
on the Stanley Cup along with Chara, Seidenberg and Ference. They are young, but
bring experience to the rink that is hard to find in most defensemen around the
NHL. The franchise has left an opening on defense as it heads into 2013 with the
expectation that Dougie Hamilton, who was the Bruins first round draft choice in
2011, will step into the lineup immediately.
In goal, the Bruins will have a new starting netminder and a new backup as Tim
Thomas announced last May that he is taking this season off from hockey for
personal reasons. It is Tuukka Rask's job to lose after serving as backup for
the last two seasons. Rask, however, was the starting puck stopper for Boston in
2009-10 before losing the position to Thomas in 2010-11. The organization, and
his teammates, have full confidence in Rask as a starter, who has a career
record of 47-35-0-11 and a .926 save percentage. The new backup will be Anton
Khudobin. The native of Kazakhstan was acquired in 2011 from the Minnesota Wild.
In seven NHL games, Khudobin has a 5-1-0-0 record. He brings a .961 save
percentage and 1.32 goals against average with him into the 2013 season.
The Northeast Division had two teams, Boston and Buffalo, participate in last
year's post-season, but with changes that were made before the lockout by
Buffalo, we will see three clubs skate into the playoffs this year, which would
make the division one of the strongest in the NHL. Unfortunately, for Toronto
and Montreal, they will not be included in Stanley Cup play. Sadly for them,
they may see a division rival in Boston or Ottawa hoist the Stanley Cup this
3 Players to Watch
The player who may have benefitted the most from the lockout is Horton, who
is reported to be ready for full contact and will start the season with his
team. He and his health will be watched closely by the team and fans alike.
He's the team's clear-cut No. 1 goalie now, and it's time for Rask to prove
he's up for the challenge. As solid as the club has been over the years,
they'll only go as far as their goaltending will take them.
Seguin absolutely lit up the Swiss league during the lockout and is one of
the few NHLers in both great physical shape and outstanding game-shape. Look
for Seguin to be among the league leaders in scoring this shortened-season.