Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bruins Season Preview

Goalies: Tim Thomas, Manny Fernandez, Tuukka Rask

Defensemen: Zdeno Chara, Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference, Andrew Alberts, Aaron Ward, Mark Stuart, Shane Hnidy, Matt Lashoff

Forwards: Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard, Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Michael Ryder, Marco Sturm, PJ Axelsson, David Krejci, Chuck Kobasew, Peter Schaefer, Petteri Nokelainan, Shawn Thornton, Vladimir Sobotka, Jeremy Reich

The Bruins don't look bad.
They're no Red Wings, and we all know that just because they seem to pass on paper doesn't mean they won't fail miserably on the ice, but the B's are a few answered question marks away from being a solid team. Even if they stall at first, there are plenty of options for trading. Seeing as they've preferred to take their time in recent years bringing prospects up, I'll assume for now that this is going to be pretty close to the starting roster.
Let's take a look.

Stopping Goals
The Bruins' biggest unknown going into the season is goaltending, and one that won't likely be solved immediately. Barring an injury or a total collapse, the B's will start the season with three goaltenders. Though he'll get more ice time and a much more serious look than last year, Tuukka Rask will still be limited for the first half and probably won't take over as the starter this season. My bet is that Tim Thomas once again wins his job, the Bruins trade Manny Fernandez, and at some point in the second half of the season they start splitting time evenly between Thomas and Rask. That being said, it will probably happen completely differently. For all I know the Bruins are starting Jeremy Reich in net.
Whatever happens with goaltending should be buffered by defense. The de on this team have gotten way too much credit
in the past couple of seasons (probably because it seemed more plausible than giving the credit to Tim Thomas), but they might actually deserve it this year. Once Dennis Wideman stops making terrible mistakes, the Bruins will have a genuine top pairing, and though the thought of Aaron Ward and Mark Stuart together is terrifying, at least Stuart is bound to improve. The cherry on top is the return of Andrew Alberts, i.e. the return of a large, physical, surprisingly intelligent de man who clicks well with Andrew Ference. Fantastic.

Scoring Goals
On offense there's a good mix of experienced veterans who haven't quite slowed down yet (sorry, Muzz) and young talent that's coming into its own. Though it's never out of the question for Boston forwards to muddle around in mediocrity for the whole season, I think the team is poised to score some goals. Marc Savard, a playmaker who feeds off the energy of his linemates, should put up big numbers playing with the likes of Phil Kessel and Michael Ryder. If all three can keep their heart in the game, they'll kill. I can't believe that Patrice will be anything less than phenomenal, especially if he has Milan Lucic to watch out for him and his old linemate Sturm at his side. With all the attention on the top two lines (something Lucic will have to deal with better to be successful), David Krejci can have himself a strong year flying under the radar. They can end up mediocre, but with some effort and luck they can also be very good.
Charizard and Wideman will make the power play unit intimidating, which can hopefully translate into actually scoring power play goals this year. Besides those two, the defensemen aren't particularly dangerous offensively. Andrew Ference, for instance, is an excellent playmaker in all three zones, but lacks the shot to score from the blue line. The de will have to become more of a threat in order to open up the offensive zone for their forwards, who (as a whole) aren't big enough to thrive in tight checking.

Everything can go either way. They've got big defensemen, talented forwards, and three decent options in net. They're also the Bruins. But that's not such a bad thing anymore. The team is full of heart (Patrice, Milan, Thomas, etc.) and after last year's playoffs the whole team should have a jump in their step. Maybe one series is too much to glean hope from, but for the first time in a long time the Bruins came together and willed themselves some wins. I think the team finally knows what they have to do, and with Claude Julien coaching them, hopefully this year they can do it.

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