As part of our preview heading into the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, we've asked Joe McDonald and James Murphy to answer nine big questions (one per day) facing the Boston Bruins. Here's our final question:
How far will the Bruins go this season?
Joe McDonald: The Boston Bruins are a talented team and have the core group of players that should make the lockout-shortened, 48-game season an interesting run.
Since the team won the Stanley Cup in 2011, there’s been little turnover in the roster, which means there’s no reason why this club shouldn’t compete for another title in 2013.
The only new additions to the lineup at this point look to be rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton and forward Chris Bourque. Besides a new goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, there’s little change in the Bruins roster.
The Bruins suffered through the Stanley Cup hangover last season, struggling early and then losing in the first round of the playoffs. But there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They should win the Northeast Division title. After that, however, the Bruins could be in a battle for Eastern Conference supremacy.
The conference is loaded with talented teams, including the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers. Based on goaltending and the strength of the team, I’ve picked the Rangers to win the conference and the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins aren’t too far behind and should give the Rangers an epic battle for the Eastern Conference title. If I’m wrong, and the Bruins can prevail and return to the Cup finals, that means Rask has emerged as a true No. 1 netminder.
The Bruins are poised to be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and it will be fascinating to see how they finish the season.
James Murphy: The last two seasons I had the Bruins making it to the Stanley Cup finals. In 2011, I picked them to win the Stanley Cup and they made me look pretty smart. Last season, I penciled them in for a date with the Kings but had them losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champions. Well, at least I had the Kings right?
Well, for the third straight season I’m predicting that the Bruins will be one of the final two teams standing, and just as I did prior to the 2010-11 season, I’m predicting the Bruins will lift the Cup. I also believe they will do so by once again beating the Vancouver Canucks.
As many have pointed out, the Bruins just may be one of the best prepared teams for a shortened season like the 48-game one they're about to embark on. They have their core intact and the only significant change in the lineup is that Tim Thomas is gone and Tuukka Rask is a starter once again. Given that Rask was in that role for most of the 2009-10 season, that isn't really a dramatic change. They also have the same coach, so the players are familiar with the system. On top of that, 13 Bruins played during the lockout and are close to game shape. Combine all those elements with the fact that such a young core has already won a Cup and the Bruins are poised for another Cup parade.