After proving last year that they can get through the grind that is the Stanley Cup playoffs, this year’s Bruins have fewer question marks.
By winning the Stanley Cup last year, coach Claude Julien exorcised his demons and quieted the critics who said his style didn’t work in the post-lockout NHL.
It wasn’t Julien’s style that was the problem. Until last year, the team didn’t have the right players for it to work effectively.
Combine that with a young, hungry team and a goalie that became white-hot, and you have yourself a championship.
The Bruins Will Enter the Playoffs Healthy
As long as Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid return to the lineup, the Bruins will go into the playoffs relatively healthy.
Aside from Nathan Horton, the team’s top two offensive lines are intact. Despite missing Horton, the Bruins have had success on offense, particularly the first line.
Moving the young, speedy Tyler Seguin to the top line has generated a spark in both David Krejci and Milan Lucic.
Seguin's speed and scoring ability have provided the top line with the boost it needed. The move has also given Patrice Bergeron the chance to focus more on offense.
For as much offense as Seguin provides, he still has a long way to go to develop into the two-way player that Julien desires, leaving Bergeron to pick up the slack in the defensive end.
The move also has allowed Rich Peverley to slide into the second line when he returned from injury and has given Peverley almost two weeks to gel with Bergeron and Brad Marchand before the playoffs begin.
Can the Bruins Repeat?
While the loss of Horton is clearly a factor, letting Tomas Kaberle go in free agency was a major addition by subtraction.
GM Peter Chiarelli didn’t make any major moves at the trading deadline, but we didn’t think that he did last year either, and Peverley and Chris Kelly, both acquired at the 2011 deadline, were vital pieces in winning the Cup.
Acquiring Greg Zanon wasn’t a flashy move, but it allowed Julien to bench the unreliable Joe Corvo.
This Year’s Bruins Can Score
This Bruins team won’t enter the playoffs with concerns about its power play or lack of scoring.
They are second behind only Pittsburgh in goals scored. Even though they may not score as often as Philadelphia or Vancouver on the power play, the Bruins don’t have the anemic special teams production that plagued them last year.
After suffering through the Stanley Cup hangover and the post-Christmas blues, the Bruins have regained their form, and it may have come at just the right time.
Julien’s team has gotten back to doing what it does best: playing suffocating defense and taking advantage of its opponent’s mistakes.
As long as Tim Thomas stays out of the slump that he was in after his White House debacle, the Bruins will once again be in position to make another deep run in the playoffs.