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Bruins Ramp Up For Another Cup Run

bos_g_bruins_400To call the Boston Bruins 2013 season eventful would be a gross understatement.  They were just moments from being knocked out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Maple leafs until Toronto choked so bad that Cubs fans felt bad for them. They went on to steamroll over the Rangers and the Penguins, and then met the Chicago Blackhawks in the Finals for an emotional six game series. The B’s were 17 seconds away from forcing a Game 7, only to watch it fall apart right in front of them.

        Watching the Blackhawks carry the Cup on the Bruins’ home ice left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth. However, getting ol’ Stanley back home to the Garden will be no easy task. No team has made it to the Finals two years in a row since the Red Wings in 2008 and 2009. The B’s, hoping to reverse that trend, have undergone a major offseason renovation and will have a brand new look come October.

         There were plenty of fireworks in Beantown on the Fourth of July as Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli pulled the trigger on the league’s biggest off-season trade. Boston said goodbye to 21-year-old Tyler Seguin, as the team shipped him off to Dallas along with teammate Rich Peverley (moment of silence for all the Seguinistas who have moved to Dallas). Admittedly, the Seguin trade hurt a little bit; personally I’m on team “B’s gave up too early.” It was unsettling to watch a player projected to be an elite-level talent and a core piece for the Bruins’ future just walk away, but the often-criticized party boy was not the right fit for Boston. There will be no more “WHOOO’s” heard in Boston as Nathan Horton quickly followed in his former teammates’ footsteps, signing with Columbus. Not surprisingly, Jaromir Jagr was not resigned by Bruins organization and was picked up by New Jersey. These departures completely depleted the right wing, leaving enforcer Shawn Thorton as the team’s only right winger. Lovable veteran defenseman Andrew Ference signed with Edmonton, but this moves raises little concern with the B’s solid defense. Anton Khudobin wanted to be a starting goaltender, so he was shipped off to Carolina, where he will be Cam Ward’s backup. The age old question of “who let the dogs out?” was finally answered when Boston let go of Kaspar Daugavins. The Bruins let the Daugs out. You can’t really blame them though, I’m still bitter about him missing a wide open net in overtime in the Finals. The B’s also said goodbye to Wade Redden, Jay Pandolfo and Ryan Button.

       bos_g_eriksson_b1_200  All of these offseason trades left much of the fan base in a panic. “We have no one left! Who’s going to score all the goals? Who’s going to ruin the Boston nightclub scene?” Well have no fear, because with the goodbyes came a few hellos. From the Seguin deal Boston picked up Loui Erikkson, a physical player who can score a whole heck of a lot, just the B’s style. The 28-year-old will fit perfectly with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and could possibly make the trio the best two-way line in the NHL. The Bruins also acquired prospects Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith, and Joe Morrow in the Dallas deal. Replacing Jagr in the “old timer who still has game” department will be Jerome Iginla. Just months after snubbing Boston at the trade deadline, 36-year-old Iginla will find himself wearing a spoked B sweater come game time. How ironic. Missing a backup goalie with Khudobin gone, the B’s picked up 27-year-old Chad Johnson during the summer (no, not Ochocinco). Johnson only has 10 games of NHL experience under his belt but has compiled very impressive numbers in the AHL. But, he will have to compete with former Swedish Elite League goalie Niklas Svedberg, who dazzled last season with the Providence Bruins, for the right to replace Khudobin on the roster.

           Despite seeing a considerable amount of firepower walk out the door, we can’t forget about all the talent returning to the ice for the B’s. Amongst their blockbuster trade of the summer, the Bruins also re-signed goalie Tuukka Rask to a lucrative 8 year deal. The 26-year-old stepped out of Tim Thomas’ dominating shadow in incredible fashion this past season, producing an all-star caliber campaign. Coming off a superb postseason performance in which he posted a league-best .940 save-percentage, Rask has become unquestionably elite. With his future in Boston sealed, the rising star should continue to dominate in the upcoming season. Bruins fans can also breathe a sigh of relief as we will be able to Keep Calm and Bergeron until 2022. The 8 year, $52 million extension almost guarantees that Patrice Bergeron will retire a Bruin. The little ball of hate Brad Marchand will be back on the forward line, along with solid players David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell. Yes, Campbell, the guy who finished out a shift after suffering a broken leg when blocking a shot while killing a penalty in Game 3 against the Penguins, is already back on the ice three months later.

            Boston’s blue line did not get the facelift that the forward group got, nor did it need it. Captain Zdeno Chara will continue to lead Boston’s defense, along with dependable veterans Dennis Seidenburg and Johnny Boychuck. The B’s are building a youth movement on defense as well. Dougie Hamilton will be looking to build upon a promising rookie season. Fellow youngster Torey Krug was a breath of fresh air in the postseason. The pint-sized blue liner scored four goals in his first five NHL playoff games after spending the season down in Providence. The gutsy d-man will get a chance to show us his stuff during the regular season as a third pairing regular and could, along with Hamilton, help solve the team’s woes on the power play. Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski and Joe Morrow will be the favorites to fill out the rest of the defensive spots.

            Chiarelli knew changes needed to be made to improve the team and stay within the salary cap, but that too much would unbalance what was a successful team last season. Well, even with some substantial remodeling over the summer, the former Northeast powerhouse looks like they will hold their own in the new Atlantic Division. Four of the five teams in the old Northeast Division qualified for the playoffs last year, and all of those clubs will now be joined by the Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers to form the Atlantic. Though the Buffalo Sabres and the pair of Floridian clubs may not be ready to compete this year, the other four Atlantic teams, especially the Red Wings and their Original Six history of success, should make things very difficult for the Bruins. The B’s gameplay should get some fresh energy from their new faces and a fire from their returning players. That being said, they certainly have all of the necessary elements to compete. In 2013-14, the Bruins will have another chance to bring the Cup back to Boston, but it won’t be easy. The Bruins open their 2013-14 season on October 3rd against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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