By Pat Cameron
The Boston Bruins, fresh off a crushing loss in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Chicago Blackhawks, have high expectations for the 2013-14 NHL season.
The Blackhawks, from the start of the season last year, were the team to beat. The Bruins were able to take them to six games and, if not for a huge collapse in the last 1:15 of that forgettable sixth game, the series would have gone to a seventh game. And who knows what would have happened if it did.
Some significant roster changes were made during the offseason for the Bruins, as they brought in established stars Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla while saying goodbye to Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, and Jaromir Jagr.
Although Seguin may have the most potential, Eriksson and Iginla bring the Bruins experience, toughness, and a professional attitude which is exactly what the organization as a whole is looking for. Seguin wasn’t that type of player.
Boston’s recent playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals was a rollercoaster ride. The first round was capped off by an unbelievable game seven comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs, while the second round was injected with energy from rookie defenseman Torey Krug. The Bruins dominated a mentally weak New York Rangers team who fired coach John Tortorella four days after they were eliminated.
The Eastern Conference Finals was expected to be a great matchup of the top two teams in the East — Boston and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh was favored by many to win the series, but the Bruins shocked the hockey world by winning four straight by a combined score of 12-2.
Patrice Bergeron, arguably the best overall player on the Bruins, was playing injured throughout most of the finals. By game six he was playing with a punctured lung, broken rib and torn cartilage (and he STILL finished the game). If he had been fully healthy, the series could have been entirely different.
Gregory Campbell was another injured Bruin who missed the final seven games of Boston’s playoff run. He suffered a broken right fibula in the third game of the ECF while throwing his body in front of an Evgeni Malkin slapshot during a crucial penalty kill. This was a key moment during the game as Campbell finished his shift and received a well-earned standing ovation by the Boston crowd.
Last year was a lockout shortened year but it was a battle the whole way for the Bruins. They dealt with many distractions including injuries and team chemistry issues, but fought through and had a great season.
Both Bergeron and Campbell have healed up and are ready to go this year. Having a full offseason for players like Eriksson and Iginla will help the team be able to flow together and figure out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They fit in on the top two lines very well and there should be a lot of production from them.
The fact that Jagr is not a Bruin anymore will allow young players like Reilly Smith and Jordan Caron prove themselves as NHL caliber players. Through the preseason and the first two games they have shown that they belong here; both have had solid starts.
Tuukka Rask has also had a strong start to the year. The Bruins have one of the best rosters both professional and talent-wise which is why they are projected to be one of the top four teams in the league. A Stanley Cup is not out of reach for the Bruins this year and for years to come because of the age bracket that the core group of players fall into. There is a lot of buzz surrounding them and I feel they can live up to the pressure and have a successful Stanley Cup winning season.