The NHL regular season gets underway in one week, and we finish off our countdown of the Atlantic Division final standings today, by taking a closer look at the Boston Bruins.
The final predicted standings for the division are:
1st: Boston Bruins
2nd: Detroit Red Wings
3rd: Montreal Canadiens
4th: Ottawa Senators
5th: Tampa Bay Lightning
6th: Toronto Maple Leafs
7th: Buffalo Sabres
8th: Florida Panthers
The Boston Bruins battled the Montreal Canadiens throughout the shortened 2013 season, and ultimately fell just short of a division title. The Bruins would take the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and after a dramatic game seven comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins marched all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
Boston would fall in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks, but it was another great season for the Bruins, a team that has consistently been great since winning the Stanley Cup in 2011.
There has been plenty of turnover among the forwards during the offseason, but Boston still boasts one of the deepest rosters in the NHL. The Bruins lost Nathan Horton and deadline acquisition Jaromir Jagr to free agency, and then traded Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to the Dallas Stars.
To replace the missing parts on offense, the Bruins brought in Loui Eriksson from the Stars, and signed veteran scorer Jarome Iginla. Beyond their impressive top six, the Bruins will get secondary scoring from Chris Kelly, Dan Paiile and Gregory Campbell.
Scoring was not the Bruins biggest strength last season, as they finished 13th in the NHL in goals scored, but their defensive game is so sound, that they do not need to be among the leagues highest scoring teams.
Their defense is led by perennial Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara. The mammoth defender is among the league’s best and plays in all situations. The rest of the Bruins defenders fall in line behind Chara, and emerging youngster Dougie Hamilton is poised for a much bigger role this season with Andrew Ference gone to the Edmonton Oilers. The back end is rounded out by solid veterans Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk. The group does not habe many big names beyond Chara, but the Bruins team defense is among the best in the league. Center Patrice Bergeron is in the Selke Trophy conversation every year, as best defensive forward, and Kelly, Campbell and David Krejci all play a great defensive game, giving the Bruins four two way centers to take some pressure off the defensemen.
In net, the Bruins will be handing the majority of starts over to the capable hands of Tuukka Rask. The Finnish netminder enters the season fresh off signing a lucrative 8 year, 56 million dollar contract. Rask has proven to be among the best goaltenders in the league since taking over for the departed Tim Thomas. If Rask can perform under the increased pressure of being the highest paid goaltender in the league, th Bruins will again be at the top of the NHL standings.
The Bruins lineup, after plenty of offseason maneuvering now looks like this:
Lucic – Krejci – Iginla
Marchand – Bergeron – Eriksson
Soderberg – Kelly – Caron
Paille – Campbell – Thornton
Chara – Hamilton
Seidenberg – Boychuk
Krug – McQuaid
The Bruins have made several changes, and it may cause them to stumble a bit out of the gate. However, they have plenty of depth at every position, and barring an injury to Rask, they will be a tough team to beat on any given night this season.
This depth, and strong defensive game, will lead the Boston Bruins to the top of the Atlantic Division in 2013-14.