Last night the NHL regular season got under way, but for the Boston Bruins, the wait isn't quite over. After a deep playoff run and a shortened off-season, the Bruins will take to the ice tomorrow for their regular season opener at home against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins first two games at home will be against new divisional opponents, including the newest member of the Eastern Conference, the Detroit Red Wings.
A strong start against new rivals would be nice, but the Bruins most important goals are much more long term. After an offseason of turnover and development the Bruins are anxious to begin another long journey towards another Stanley Cup Finals, except this time they don't expect to fall short. the 2013-2014 NHL calendar will be the first full 82 game slate since 2012, so short cutting your way into the playoffs won't be an option.
The B's enter the year as the defending Eastern Conference Champions, and they know that there will be a big target on their back every time they take the ice. From a talent standpoint, Boston is as in as good a position as any team in the league, so bring back another championship will once again boil down to execution.
Even with the amount of success this franchise has enjoyed over the last six years, fans and players alike appear as hungry as ever to raise another banner at the Garden.
1) Tuukka Rask will not play more than 55 games.
That number night seem unusually low, but this is an unusual year. In addition to feeling the pressure to earn the big contract he received in the offseason, Rask is the odds on favorite to start for Team Finland in the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics. Chad Johnson and eventually Niklas Svedberg will need to be capable backups, because Tuukka Time needs to be rested for another playoff run.
2) Jarome Iginla and Louis Eriksson will combine for more than 50 goals.
Cue the doubters who argue that Iginla is over the hill, and Eriksson will wilt under the pressures of a big market. Either scenario is unlikely because of what the Bruins have in place. Iginla could have a hard time replicating Nathan Horton's playoff numbers, but that doesn't mean that he isn't a massive upgrade in regards to his regular season production.
As for Eriksson, the case can easily be made that other than Mike Ribero, the big Swede has had very little opportunity to maximize his potential. Playing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand will change that in a hurry. Look for Eriksson to top the 30 goal mark.
3) Either Torey Krug or Dougie Hamilton will emerge as an offensive threat on the blueline.
If were judging by the preseason alone, the answer to this debate is Krug. The pint-sized ball of energy was everywhere in the warm up contests, and seemed to pick up right where he left off from his coming out party in last years playoffs.
That is not to say that Hamilton was bad. The fact remains that Hamilton will get his chances once injuries begin to mount. How do we know this will happen? Well, last year, Wade Redden was activated in the playoffs and even scored a goal, so anything really is possible. Watching these young d men battle to stay on the active roster is going to be fun.
4) The Bruins will win the new Atlantic Division.
The number one reason is going to be consistency up front. As talented as Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin were (are?) consistent production was not their forte. Seguin may well turn into a franchise forward, but the B's have proven time and time again they are built to win right now.
Coincidentally, Louis Eriksson and especially Jarome Iginla are salivating over the thought of lifting the Stanley Cup. At this moment neither is a dynamic force of nature. So what? Unlike Horton goes to the Zoo and Tyler "I drink all day" Seguin, these new Bruins want to make an impact, and that should make all the difference in the world.
5) The Boston Bruins will return to the Stanley Cup Finals.
With the uncertainty surrounding the third line, to go along with the number of new additions, it is hard to pick the B's to win the whole thing. Now, Boston is still very much the class of the East. Pittsburgh still has goalie issues, all of those years in the West have taken their toll on Detroits' veterans, and Toronto and Montreal are still at least a year away.
Getting back to to the Finals will be an immense challenge, especially with the grind of a full season. The West is deep, and the thought of facing the Blackhawks or Kings in a seven game series is a little bit scary, but as far as the East is concerned? Until somebody proves otherwise, the Bruins are still the team to beat.
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- Boston Bruins 2013-2014 Position Preview: Forwards
- Boston Bruins 2013-2014 Position Preview: Defense
- The Top Five Games to Look for on the Boston Bruins 2013-2014 Schedule
- 2013-2014 Boston Bruins Position Preview: Goalies
- The 2013-2014 NHL Atlantic Division Preview
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