1. Will the Bruins benefit from the shortened season?
Joe McDonald: The Boston Bruins will benefit from the shortened schedule for a few reasons, but mainly because there’s been little turnover on their roster since the team won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Even before the NHL’s lockout this season, the Bruins were favored as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference because the core is young, healthy and has already known success. That’s also one of the main reasons why general manager Peter Chiarelli hasn’t made any changes because he realizes the potential this club has. Unlike many other teams in the NHL, the Bruins don’t have to worry about learning new coaches, teammates or systems because everything is already in place in Boston. The only real change for the Bruins is that Tuukka Rask will be the No. 1 goalie. The lines should all be largely the same and so should the defensive unit. Coach Claude Julien’s job shouldn’t be that much of a challenge at the start of the shortened season. The one aspect the Bruins need to be aware of is consistency. There’s no time for lulls because of the small number of games they’ll play in a short period of time. There shouldn’t be any excuses for the Bruins this season and they should be one of the top teams in the conference.
James Murphy: The biggest danger to a shortened season or really any season for that matter is a slow start. Obviously with only 48 games and playing only teams within your own conference, every point is magnified. So recovering from a slow start is going to be much harder. But as Cam Neely pointed out to ESPN Boston recently, the Bruins have basically the same team (players and coaches) coming back, which should help. Neely also made the point that the Bruins went through a slow start last season coming of their Stanley Cup championship, so they know from experience how important it is to start strong. One thing that should help is that so many (13) Bruins played overseas during the lockout. Yes, the level of hockey they were playing certainly isn’t as high as the NHL, but playing is always going to get you in better game shape than simply training. Sprinkle in the bitter taste from last season's first round exit to the Capitals -- and even though it was nine months ago it still stings -- and the Bruins should have plenty of motivation right out of the gate. This team knows they're better than what they showed in that loss to the Capitals and they’ll want to prove that. Based on all those elements, I see the Bruins coming out strong out of the gate and expect big things from them this season.