Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. The next team up is the Boston Bruins. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. And use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the defending Stanley Cup champions.
With three of their four playoff series going to seven games, the Bruins traveled a long, but fulfilling road to capture the Stanley Cup. Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas was a steadying influence between the pipes, posting a 1.98 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in the post-season, along with four shutouts.
The 37-year-old is fresh off collecting his second Vezina Trophy and will give Boston a solid chance to defend their crown in 2011-2012.
Here's a look at what's in store for this season.
Prospect Report: With youngsters like Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Adam McQuaid already contributing for the big club, the Bruins' system played a big role in their recent success. And there's more where that came from as Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Spooner will look to make an impact in the near future.
Hamilton, another asset from the trade that sent Phil Kessel to Toronto two year ago, was the ninth overall pick in this year's draft and has the ability to provide toughness and scoring on the blueline. Spooner, 19, is undersized for a forward but what he lacks in bulk he makes up for in creativity, which he showcased by netting 62 points in 50 games last season in the OHL.
Breakout Player To Watch: Tyler Seguin may have seen action in 74 games during last year's regular season, but it was his post-season play that gave Bruins fans a real taste of what's to come. After scoring 11 goals and 11 assists in the regular season, Seguin filled in for an injured Patrice Bergeron in the playoffs and provided an instant spark with three goals and seven points in 13 appearances. With a full season under his belt, we can expect to see an even bigger contribution from the young centre.
Marquee Matchup: Jan. 7 vs. Canucks - The Vancouver Canucks will be looking for a small measure of revenge when they travel to Boston for a rematch of last year's Stanley Cup Final. Their seven-game series had plenty of bad blood, which should make for a very interesting mid-season matchup between two of the NHL's best clubs.
Other Dates To Watch: Oct. 12 at Hurricanes - Tomas Kaberle left Boston for Carolina as a free agent, and in a separate move Joe Corvo was shipped from Carolina to Boston via trade. The two defenceman who swapped addresses in the summer will take the ice against each other early in the season. Oct. 27 and 29 vs. Canadiens - The Habs and Bruins had some epic battles last season, highlighted by their slugfest in Boston in February and the Pacioretty-Chara incident the following month. With so much emotion and intensity between the two teams, this home-and-home series should kick off another great rivalry for the upcoming season.
Reason To Get Excited: It will be a tough act to follow as the Bruins try to hoist the Stanley Cup once again. For a championship team, the Bruins did well not to lose any key parts of their core and their younger players will benefit from the experience they gained in the playoffs. Boston isn't going away anytime soon.
Home Hardware: Tim Thomas has taken home the Vezina in two of the last three seasons and unless Father Time catches up to him suddenly, he very well could be in line to repeat that feat in the coming year. He notched 35 wins while posting a 2.00 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage and nine shutouts during the 2010-11 campaign.
On The Hot Seat: Capturing the Stanley Cup cures all ills. Heading into the season, the Bruins don't have any players under fire. Whether they will be able to deliver another powerful performance remains to be seen, but the pressure is off at least for the time being.
It's Your! Call: Can the Bruins stand strong atop the NHL and repeat as Stanley Cup champions?
The Bruins won their division last year with a comfortable seven points separating them and the second-place Canadiens and they entered the playoffs ranked third in the Eastern Conference. But the road to glory was not an easy one. Three times the Bruins were pushed to a deciding Game 7 and while they emerged victorious, the margin for error was slim.
With little change to their lineup, you can expect the Bruins to be in the mix at the top of the Eastern Conference and return to the post-season as they attempt to defend what is currently theirs.
Can Tim Thomas continue to perform at an elite level at 37-years-old? How will Tyler Seguin fare in his second season in Boston? Can the Bruins' depth continue to help them overcome any challenge put their way?