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SEASON PREVIEWS
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January 9, 2013 | 7:13pm ET
Season Preview: Boston
By Shawn Hutcheon, TheFourthPeriod.com

The 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.

Forwards

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.

Defense

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.

Goalies

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.

Projected Outcome

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 spring.

3 Players to Watch
 
Nathan Horton
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.
Tuukka Rask
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.
Tyler Seguin
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.

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