Bruins look for similar results without 2013's emotional rollercoaster
Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser, Jarome Iginla, Chad Johnson, Nick Johnson, Mike Moore, Reilly Smith.
Andrew Ference, Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr, Aaron Johnson, Anton Khudobin, Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Tardif.
Last year: The shortened season wasn’t without its ups and downs for the B’s.
The first two months of the season saw the team playing the best hockey in the league, dropping just two regulation games through the end of February.
The Bruins were unable to enjoy their dominance, however, spending much of the first months trailing other teams in the standings by virtue of having enjoyed a lighter schedule. They played at least two fewer games than every other Eastern Conference team by the end of February and despite having secured 26 of a possible 32 points – found themselves the fourth seed, trailing the Montreal Canadiens, who were 20 games deep into their season.
As a result, the back half of the schedule was one giant game of catch-up.
The Bruins played 17 games in March alone, equaling the number they had played in January and February combined. The heavier schedule took its toll, with the Bruins dropping five of their last eight to close the month.
Boston would soldier on into April before the season and the city itself came to a stand-still with the Boston Marathon bombings. Two games would be rescheduled in the aftermath forcing the Bruins to finish the regular season with six games in nine nights.
Finishing one point shy of the Northeast Division-leading Habs, the Bruins’ reward for all their hard work was an opening round date with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Bruins looked to have the series in hand when a bad pinch by Dion Phaneuf handed them a 3-1 series lead. But the Leafs battled back.
Staring down a first-round exit, down three goals with just 11 minutes left in Game 7, the Bruins snapped back to life. Milan Lucic decreased the Leafs’ lead to one with 82 seconds left in the game. Patrice Bergeron equalized just over 30 seconds later and blew the roof off the TD Garden with his OT winner to send the stunned Leafs packing.
The Bruins put the pedal down through the rest of the Eastern Conference, getting through the New York Rangers in five games (the only loss coming in overtime) and sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins while allowing just two goals in the series.
Fortunes would reverse themselves in the Cup Final, as the Bruins – just 76 seconds from forcing Game 7 – would get stung by a pair of goals just 17 seconds apart and be forced to watch the Chicago Blackhawks hoist the Cup on the Garden ice.
This Year: Change came swiftly this off-season.
The forwards that did most of the heavy lifting in the playoffs – Bergeron, Lucic, David Krejci – rested and recouped, while one-time franchise forward Tyler Seguin, three years removed from being the second overall pick in the draft and the centerpiece of the Phil Kessel bounty, was dealt to Dallas after potting just one goal in 19 playoff games.
The team also let Nathan Horton recoup a big paycheck from the Columbus Blue Jackets once free agency opened.
In their place came a blend of veteran savvy and responsibility in Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla. The former was the key to the Seguin deal along with a prospect haul, the latter was righting a perceived wrong. The Bruins thought they had Iginla prior to the 2013 trade deadline, before the deal came apart.
The B’s lost a lot a good amount NHL tenure during the off-season with Andrew Ference, Rich Peverley and Jaromir Jagr also relocating, but Boston will look internally to recoup the talent gap left by those players and the two jettisoned scorers.
After playoff auditions, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski could revitalize the blue line alongside sophomore Dougie Hamilton. Meanwhile, young forwards like Jordan Caron, Ryan Spooner, Carl Soderberg, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser should help replenish the forward depth.
After finishing the business of additions, the Bruins also locked down two key pieces, extending both Bergeron and goaltender Tuukka Rask to eight-year contract extensions within a two-day span.
There’s no way 2013-14 could be more eventful than last season. But there is one way it could have a happier ending.
The Long and the Short – How will a full 82-game slate affect the Bruins' performance after a shortened season?
It’s not so much season length as it is season balance that will help the Bruins to a successful season.
The Bruins have enough experience and depth for a regular season not being a concern to their legs. It’s doubtful that the team will be forced into another situation like they were at the end of last season where the Game 7 vs. Toronto marked their 13th game in 24 days.
The only concern could be what the 36-year-old Iginla has left in the tank, but the Bruins won’t need him to carry quite the load he carried in Calgary.
On the Books – What off-season moves did the Bruins make to get themselves back in cap shape?
The Bruins still have work to do to get under the cap. They sank the money they used not re-signing Horton or Ference into Bergeron and Rask’s extensions and getting Iginla.
They are – as of writing - $1.1 million over the cap, largely by virtue of the $4 million-plus still obligated to Marc Savard.
They did save significant cap space in the Seguin deal, since the 21-year-old’s six-year $5.75-million AAV extension kicks in this year and Peverley still had two years left on his deal.
Long Division – A look at the intriguing possibilities ahead for the Bruins after realignment.
The only real change for the B’s is the addition of the Red Wings, meaning the new Atlantic Division is now 50 per cent Original Six franchises (to say nothing of the resurrected Senators).
The Wings will make a tough division tougher, but given that the B’s haven’t missed the playoffs since 2007, the odds are good that they’ll still be on the right side of the ledger come April.
After all, for every game they’ve added against the Wings, they’ll have two more against the Florida franchises.
Fantasy - Scott Cullen's Player to Watch
Jarome Iginla, RW - For all the criticism of Iginla's play in Pittsburgh last season, he did score 23 points in 28 (regular season plus playoff) games, so even if he's not playing like he did in his best years, he's still got something left in the tank. Iginla's 2013 season wasn't productive -- 0.75 points per game was his lowest since 1998-1999 -- but he moves into a good opportunity with the Bruins.
With Jaromir Jagr, Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin all moving on from Boston in the offseason, Iginla will likely take over from Horton on the wing with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, a decidedly better situation than he's had in Calgary for the last few seasons, at least. Iginla also brings power play profiency to a Bruins team that could use some improvement in that regard, scoring a dozen points with the man advantage last season, a total that would have led Boston.
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Pressing Question: Will the Bruins miss Tyler Seguin?
Tyler Seguin’s NHL career has been an exercise in extremes.
He won a Stanley Cup as a rookie, but save for his performance against Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference Final, was largely a less noticeable part on a veteran roster. He was named an NHL All-Star in his sophomore year, nearing 30 goals.
His off-ice antics have landed him in some hot water already and one has to wonder what it was that the Bruins saw (beyond his playoff goal drought) that made them want to pull the chute on someone with his upside.
Did they unload a problem case, or did a lowering cap force them to jettison a superstar in waiting while his value was at its zenith?
- Boston Bruins Preview by Shane McNeil, TSN.ca