BOSTON BRUINS 2013/14 SEASON PREVIEW

Image courtesy of espn.go.com.

The Stanley Cup has been awarded, the draft has taken place and everyone’s had a good laugh over Toronto’s bat shit insanity on Free Agent Day.

So what’s left to do except fawn over what the 2013/14 NHL season might bring?!

First up, we’ll take a look at 2013 Stanley Cup Finalists, the Boston Bruins.

What happened in 2013?

Image courtesy of nesn.com.

The Bruins got off to a torrid start in 2013 following the conclusion of the lockout, going 5-1-1 in January and 8-1-1 in February to cement themselves as early favourites for a long playoff run.  They began to stumble in March (9-6-2) and by April (6-6-2) they somewhat stumbled to the finish line, though were still considered fairly strong contenders.

A first round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs – in their first playoff action since 2004 – had the Bruins and their fans salivating at the thought of a sweep, but after getting out to a 3-1 series lead the Leafs fought back to tie the series and almost took game 7 before Milan Lucic and co willed the team to a dramatic last minute comeback to hang on to their season by the fingertips.

It wasn’t thought that a second round matchup with the New York Rangers would be any easier, even after taking the first 3 games of the series given what happened against Toronto, but despite an OT loss in game 4 they came back with a solid game 5 effort to close out the series.

Image courtesy of nhl.si.com.

The Eastern Conference Final never fails to deliver on drama and intrigue, and this year was no different.  Believed to be the only possible team that could bring down the high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins, the pressure was definitely on the Bruins to come through.  And come through they did, taking advantage of the Pens’ usual goalie controversy in the first two games by peppering both Vokoun and Fleury (when he came in) 3-0 and 6-1, and closed out the series sweep with a close OT victory in game 3 and another tight one in game 4, 2-1 and 0-1 respectively, to send the Bruins to the finals for the second time in three seasons.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, their foe in the Finals was to be the Chicago Blackhawks, coming off a season for the ages and for the most part breezing through the playoffs dropping just 5 games out of 17 prior to their meeting with Boston.  Dropping the first game in a highly dramatic game which saw 52 minutes of overtime played before Andrew Shaw put it away for Chicago, Boston turned the tables in game 2 when Dan Paille played the role of OT hero, leveling the series at 1-1 as they headed back to Boston.  A 2-0 win at home gave Bruins fans hope for a possible upset, but it wasn’t to be as Chicago tied the series in game 4 in yet another OT thriller, took game 5 in Chicago 3-1 and finally finished off the season with a come-from-behind last minute victory in game 6.

Top 5 Scorers

  1. Image courtesy of nhl.si.com.

    BRAD MARCHAND (45gp, 18g 18a 36p)

  2. DAVID KREJCI (47gp, 10g 23a 33p)
  3. PATRICE BERGERON (42gp, 10g 22a 32p)
  4. TYLER SEGUIN (48gp, 16g 16a 32p)
  5. MILAN LUCIC (46gp, 7g 20a 27p)

Trades in 2012/13

  • Tim Thomas to New York Islanders for conditional 2nd round pick (2014 or 2015)
  • Lane MacDermid, Cody Payne and condition 2nd round pick (2013) to Dallas for Jaromir Jagr
  • Max Sauve to Chicago Blackhawks for Rob Flick
  • Conditional 7th round pick to St Louis for Wade Redden

Signings for 2012/13 Season

  • Christian Hanson
  • Garnet Exelby
  • Aaron Johnson
  • Jay Pandolfo
  • Chris Casto
  • Matthew Lindblad
  • Kaspars Daugavins (claimed off waivers from Ottawa)

2013 Off-season Activity

The Draft

  • Image courtesy of bostinno.streetwise.co.

    60th Overall – Linus Arnesson

  • 90th Overall – Peter Cehlarik
  • 120th Overall – Ryan Fitzgerald
  • 150th Overall – Wiley Sherman
  • 180th Overall – Anton Blidh
  • 210th Overall – Mitchell Dempsey

Free Agency Signings

  • Image courtesy of redmileblog.com.

    Chad Johnson (1 year)

  • Jarome Iginla (1 year)
  • Tuukka Rask (8 years)
  • Patrice Bergeron (8 years)
  • Jordan Caron (1 year)
  • Carter Camper (1 year)
  • Kevan Miller (1 year)

Lost to Free Agency

  • Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com.

    Andrew Ference

  • Nathan Horton
  • Kaspars Daugavins
  • Garnet Exelby
  • Christian Hanson
  • Michael Hutchinson
  • Aaron Johnson
  • Anton Khudobin
  • Jay Pandolfo
  • Wade Redden
  • Jamie Tardif
  • Trent Whitfield

Trades

  • Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Ryan Button to Dallas for Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow.

Projected 2013/14 Roster

FORWARDS:

BRAD MARCHAND – PATRICE BERGERON – LOUI ERIKSSON

MILAN LUCIC – DAVID KREJCI – JAROME IGINLA

DANIEL PAILLE – CHRIS KELLY – JORDAN CARON

CARL SODERBERG – GREGORY CAMPBELL – SHAWN THORNTON

Image courtesy of ducks.nhl.com.

The new-look top line for the Bruins sees young star Tyler Seguin shipped out to Dallas in favour of highly-regarded two-way forward Loui Eriksson.  Eriksson should blend in perfectly to the Bruins’ defensive style, and whilst it may cost him some offense he is a far more consistent performer – and further along in his maturity on the ice as a player – than Seguin was.  This line was good and it just got better.  Bergeron is one of the top centers on the planet, and whilst not as high scoring as he once was he is an absolute warrior who can saw-off the scoring of anyone in the league.  Super-pest Marchand has developed into a pretty consistent speedy scorer, and whilst not a slouch defensively himself, playing with two guys of such calibre should allow him free reign to dart around the opposition.

The second line also sees some change, with trade deadline target Jarome Iginla finally making his way to New England.  He’s not the core impact player he once was, but he should prove to be an effective complimentary scorer on a line with skill-supremo Krejci and angry-gorilla-on-skates Lucic.  Krejci ought to be one of the offensive leaders on the team, as always, but expectations will be heightened following an electric playoff run.  Lucic is on the hunt for a bounceback campaign, and whilst I don’t doubt he should get back to being an offensive threat, his contract is almost certainly too large to live up to.

Image courtesy of sports.yahoo.com.

The bottom six got weaker with the loss of Rich Peverley, at least in terms of scoring, but Kelly and Campbell are decent at what they do in the 3rd/4th line center roles, providing physicality and decent two-way play.  Caron could just as easily find himself supplanted by the older, more experienced pro in Soderberg, but both of them have had decent moments and with the roster turnover and a longer season should be given more chance to prove themselves.  Ryan Spooner will likely earn some more NHL games this season too.  Thornton will play his usual gritty, low event type play and is OK provided they don’t give him too much responsibility, whilst Paille provides probably the most offense in this group.

DEFENCE:

ZDENO CHARA – DENNIS SEIDENBERG

DOUGIE HAMILTON – JOHNNY BOYCHUK

TOREY KRUG – ADAM MCQUAID

Image courtesy of edmontonjournal.com.

On defense, the incomparable Zdeno Chara will obviously lead the way, though will hope for a better offensive campaign than in 2013.  Is he finally slowing down at the age of 36?  A 48 game season probably doesn’t give the best sample to judge, but Bruins fans should be prepared for a potential come-down.  Still, even at this age he is a brilliant defensive player.  Seidenberg, Chara’s common partner, provides some solid offense but had defensive issues at 5v5 this past year  – though he was handed the toughest zonestarts on the team.

Dougie Hamilton showed many flashes of why he was so highly regarded in his draft year, scoring 16 points in his first 42 pro games, as well as playing strong 5v5 hockey against middling competition.  He’s a very young defender playing in the NHL, so there’ll be a few more years of ups and downs and the Bruins shouldn’t place too much responsibility on him just yet, but the early returns are promising.

Image courtesy of nytimes.com.

Boychuk’s quality of competition number was second only to Zdeno Chara, and he did well against that competition at 5v5.  A solid defensive player, he probably has more offense to give than the 6 points he scored in 2013, but that’s not his job.  Torey Krug did some amazing things offensively in the playoffs, the tiny defender scoring 4 goals and 6 points in 15 games in a completely unexpected turn, though he did show his inexperience a few times with some defensive blunders.  It remains to be seen whether he’s a flash in the pan or a legitimate NHLer, but based on the playoffs and a terrific season in the AHL he’ll get a big chance to show he belongs.

Adam Mcquaid will be looking to improve on, well, everything.  He’s never been an offensive guy but 4 points in 32 games just won’t cut it, particularly when he’s not doing much defensively.  He was bad at 5v5, leaking shots against despite playing soft competition.  With the top end of the Bruins’ defense this likely isn’t a major worry, but a weak link can do a fair bit of damage if not managed carefully.

GOAL:

TUUKKA RASK

CHAD JOHNSON

Image courtesy of metro.us.

Tuukka Rask firmly entrenched himself in the starter’s chair this season, ensuring Tim Thomas remains consigned to the history books and not the wish list of Bruins fans.  A brilliant 2.00 GAA and .929 SV% put him amongst the best goalies in the league, though it still remains to be seen what he can do playing 60-70 games in a season.  I don’t think that should prove too much of a worry though.  Could be a challenger for the Vezina if he capitalises on Boston’s playing style, much like Thomas did.

Chad Johnson comes in to replace Khudobin, and whilst he likely won’t get much action behind Rask the Bruins are hoping he can finally take on a full-time backup role at the age of 27.  If he can’t, Niklas Svedberg is likely waiting in the wings to replace him.

EXTRAS: MATT BARTKOWSKI (D), RYAN SPOONER (F), NIKLAS SVEDBERG (G)

Expectations for the Season

Image courtesy of boston.com.

Any roster with this collection of high quality NHLers will always have high expectations.  It’s amazing that despite 2 seasons having passed since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, they still have 12 of the same players from that team on their roster, and they are all still at the top of their game.  There aren’t too many weak links in the chain here, and they may have even gotten better with the additions of Eriksson and Iginla, though their bottom 6 does seem a bit thin to me with the loss of Peverley.  The defense also hinges on how fast Chara decides to age, though hopefully by the time he’s done (not likely for a few years yet) Hamilton will be ready to fill the rather large void.

With a host of potential individual award winners — Bergeron for the Selke, Chara for the Norris, and Rask for the Vezina — along with a very strong supporting cast, there’s no reason to believe this isn’t a team that can once again go deep in the second season.  They’ll have to shore up their depth a bit, but that goes without saying and GM Peter Chiarelli has proven quite adept at improving his team over the course of the year.

A certain Stanley Cup contender.

 

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