Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty will help us get ready for the upcoming NHL season with a series of looks at what we might be able to expect from the Black and Gold in 20113. Today, we kick off with Five Things to Look For From the Bruins. Tomorrow we'll look at the Five Things That Could Go Wrong and on Friday we'll move to Haggerty's Five Bold Predictions.
HUNGER WILL BE BACK
Thankfully, there will be no more Stanley Cup hangover talk this year after the Bruins were ousted by the Washington Capitals in the first round of last year’s playoffs when they had been reduced to an empty husk of themselves due to fatigue and a rash of injuries. Key players like Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and David Krejci simply didn’t have any gas left in the tank when the postseason got rolling. The Bruins should taste a great deal of success if those players are operating at a high level. It has been five years since the Bruins were last ousted in the first round of the postseason -- Claude Julien’s first year at the helm in Boston. It’s not something the Black and Gold want to get accustomed to. Instead there will be a prideful anger at least year’s underachievement and even more unbridled enthusiasm after players were forced to sit out NHL games for the last four months. There will be few chances to step off the gas pedal during a 48-game regular season and nothing holding the Bruins back from another long, successful postseason run that will prove that the Stanley Cup championship two years ago was no fluke at all.
THE ASCENSION OF SEGUIN
The 20-year-old forward came into his own in 2012-13 after leading the Bruins in goals scored (29) and points (67), and earning his first All-Star. In the natural scheme of things, a young puck prodigy’s third season can be the one where that player truly turns into the player he’ll be for the entirety of his NHL career. Seguin should be ready to go after scoring 25 goals in 29 games for HC Biel in Switzerland. Granted it was the Swiss League, but Seguin was putting up some of the best statistics among all the NHL players in Europe, and seemed to find his sniper’s confidence. So it would appear that Seguin can take the next step and keep a 35-40 goal pace in the 48-game shortened season. He should also help rehabilitate a scuffling Bruins power play. Despite somewhat limited ice time on the power play last season, Seguin finished second on the B’s with 15 power play points. That number should skyrocket this season. Rich Peverley led the Bruins with 2:44 of power play ice time per game last season, but that category should be Seguin’s to lead given his unique ability to shoot, pass or carry the puck to the net coming off the half-wall.
ADAMS DIVISION BLOODBATHS WILL BE BACK
While it appears the NHL schedule won’t contain seven games each against divisional opponents as originally planned, the Bruins will still be playing a total of 18 games against their 4 division opponents this season. That means plenty of opportunities to ramp up the hard feelings against Montreal (and guys like Rene Bourque, Brandon Prust, Colby Armstrong) and Buffalo (John Scott, Steve Ott) after those two teams toughened up in the offseason ostensibly to better endure the Bruins' attack. Clearly the Maple Leafs and Senators already had their share of tough customers – though the Sens will miss tough guy Matt Carkner – so there will be no shortage of hockey fight nights and bloody brawls for this Bruins team despite the truncated 48-game schedule. Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell and Milan Lucic will have their hands full until Adam McQuaid is fully healthy and ready to return from his surgeries for blood clot issues. The Bruins and Rangers tied for the NHL lead with 65 major penalties last season and that should easily be the case again this year.
BOURQUE WILL RESUME FAMILY LEGACY IN BOSTON
The 26-year-old Bourque has struggled to establish himself in chances with both the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins over the last five years after leaving Boston University following an excellent freshman season for the Terriers. But it would appear Bourque will have his best chance to prove himself as an NHL caliber player with the team that turned his father into an all-time great and Hall of Famer. Bourque could have the inside track on the third line wing spot alongside Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley since Jordan Caron suffered an upper body injury that should set him back for abbreviated training camp (plus, Caron's lackluster AHL performance over the last four months hasn't helped his standing). Bourque has consistently been the best player on the Providence club throughout the season (28 points in 32 games), and a spot with Peverley and Kelly could be the perfect location for an offensively talented forward willing to show the grittiness needed out of a bottom-six forward.
RASK WILL MAKE A STATEMENT
The 25-year-old Finnish goaltender said did all of the right things over the last two years after Tim Thomas re-took the Bruins' starting gig from his young understudy. Rask soldiered through the wildly sporadic playing time and less-than-plum assignments against Western Conference opponents on Saturday matinees through the last two seasons, and now he gets his chance to prove whether he’s a franchise goaltender. Rask won’t be able to prove he’s capable of shouldering a 60-game workload during a lockout-shortened season, but he can prove he’s the same goaltender that led the league in goals against average and save percentage three years ago when he was a fresh-faced rookie. Injuries and inconsistency have conspired to gnaw away at Rask’s game over the last two seasons, but he must cast those things aside in a shortened season while splitting time with Anton Khudobin. Getting a chance to play 3-4 times a week will go a long toward helping Rask prove his mettle – the goaltender was used to consistent, abundant playing time as a prospect coming up in Finland and as the top netminder for the Providence Bruins before breaking into the NHL. Given the strong defensive corps around him and the benefits of Claude Julien’s defensive system, the pieces are all there for Rask to put up Thomas-like statistics and begin a new era between the Black and Gold pipes.