Editor’s Note: Yesterday, Chris argued the Bruins wouldn’t win the Cup. Ever ready to start a discussion, Chris is back today with a little more optimism.
Prior to the suspension of hockey back in March, the Bruins were many people’s favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
Fast-forward 4 months, and the Bruins should still be the favorites to be awarded the Cup later this year for 5 main reasons.
The Bruins’ power play was absolutely lethal this season.
With the amount of talent the B’s are capable of putting out on both of their power play units, there’s no reason to think this trend won’t continue when hockey resumes.
In fact, one might argue that it could be operate at an even higher rate when the league starts up again. Typically, power play percentages are highest for many teams at the beginning of the year when players are still trying to shake off the rust.
This was definitely true for Boston, as the first month of the season saw them scoring at an insane rate of 35.7%, including a mind-blowing 46.7% on home ice. If this trend continues, it definitely gives the Bruins an advantage over their competition.
On the flip side, the Bruins’ penalty kill improved steadily as the season stretched on. After 70 games, the B’s PK sat at 3rd overall, with a kill percentage of 84.2%, just behind Edmonton at 84.4% and San Jose at 85.7%.
The Bruins’ run to the Cup Final last season clearly showed us how important a strong PK can be, as any team wishing to hoist the Cup will need to kill penalties at extremely crucial times.
There aren’t many teams who will be competing for the Stanley Cup this year that can match the Bruins’ playoff experience. The core of this team has seen some very long playoff runs with a lot of highs and a lot of painful lows.
As a result, when faced with adversity, the heart of this team almost always seems to rise to the occasion. If the Bruins happen to fall behind in a series, the confidence is there to come back, because they’ve done it before.
Speaking of experience, there haven’t been many changes to the Bruins’ roster, from the one that lost in embarrassing fashion to the Blues in Game 7.
You have to believe there’s a ton of motivation that will be driving this team to redeem themselves this year.
Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak combined for the fewest goals against, the highest SV% and the lowest GAA of any team in the NHL. Yeah...pretty good.
Meanwhile (for goalies with 30+ appearances) Rask led the league in GAA, SV%, and had 5 shutouts this year, good enough for 2nd in the NHL.
And let’s not forget how good #40 was in last year’s playoffs either. You’d think any goalie who posted a 2.02 GAA and a .934 SV% would have been hoisting the Cup at the end of the year, but sadly for Rask, this was not the case despite his overall body of work.
The first line
It’s hard to say definitively that the line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand is the best line in hockey given the amount of talent league-wide, but it’s equally hard to say that they are not.
The Bruins’ top line has outscored every other top line this year with 43 even strength tallies. They produce the 2nd most shots for, and score 4.09 goals per 60 minutes while only allowing 2.14 per 60 minutes.
This line truly has it all: one of the league’s best defensive forwards, the co-Rocket Richard Trophy winner, and a guy who was on his way to a 2nd-straight 100-point season.
No team has figured out how to stop this line this season, and given their performance last postseason, and there’s certainly no reason to believe this line can’t put the Bruins over the top this year.
Everyone is healthy
Do you remember the last time the Bruins were this healthy?
Sure, Kevan Miller will not be appearing in this year’s playoffs, but everyone else on the roster should be ready to go.
The Bruins once again found themselves in the top half of the league for man-games lost during the regular season, but obviously persevered without a full lineup.
Now just imagine what they could do with a completely healthy line-up.
Not only are they healthy, they also have the enviable advantage of depth on the blue line as well, which is exactly what you’d like going into the playoffs.
Combine this with having legitimate options up front, and the Bruins may be more ready for the playoffs than they have been in the last decade...provided no one gets injured during the tune-up games.
The NHL playoffs have proven time and time again that anything can happen. We often see top teams get upset and teams you would never expect to reach the Cup Final do so.
This year's playoffs should be no different. In fact, given the long layoff, there could be more surprises than ever.
That being said, the Bruins have shown remarkable consistency over the last few seasons, and were the league's best team during the regular season.
Combine this year’s performance with the reasons above, and it’s easy to see why they’ll avenge last season’s defeat and win the Cup this season.