Boston Bruins: Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Five Major Players in 2012-13
The Boston Bruins aren't loaded with superstars. In fact, you could say that they don't even have one. What they do have is a lot of really good players.
Their 2011-12 season, in which they were coming off their first Stanley Cup in 39 years, was a strange one.
They struggled early. According to NHL.com, their 3-7 record after the first 10 games was worse than any of the last 17 Stanley-Cup winning squads.
They followed that up with another record-setting month, except this time it was because of how well, not how badly, they played.
The 25 points were the most by a Boston team in one month since March 1983. The B's outscored the opposition 58-24 in November, meaning the Bruins averaged 4.5 goals per game while allowing just 1.8.
They looked like a lock to repeat. Yet, they remained rather inconsistent for the rest of the season and ultimately lost a seven-game series to the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.
Coming off that kind of season, let's look ahead to the 2012-13 season and the best- and worst-case scenarios for five key Bruins.
1. Patrice Bergeron
Bergeron is the best two-way player on the Bruins.
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We'll start with the longest-tenured member of the team, center Patrice Bergeron.
Selected 45th overall in 2003, Bergeron has only missed the playoffs twice as a Bruin. He became the centerpiece of the franchise after the trade of Joe Thornton.
He won his first Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward last season while still putting up 22 goals and 64 points.
Bergeron takes the most important faceoffs and also kills penalties. He is a "jack of all trades."
Best-Case Scenario: He continues to be an offensive and defensive force while increasing his scoring totals.
He hasn't scored as many as 30 goals since 2005-06, and it's certainly not because of a lack of talent.
Worst-Case Scenario: His prior concussion issues resurface.
He missed all but 10 games of 2007-08 after suffering his first concussion. He's had two more since. The Bruins need look no further than Marc Savard to see the long-lasting effect severe brain injuries can have on a career.
2. Zdeno Chara
Chara is the tallest player in NHL history at 6'9".
The Sens made a terrible choice in choosing Redden, and Bruins fans have been reaping the benefits ever since.
Chara won his first Norris Trophy for best defenseman in 2009 and has been a finalist the last two seasons.
As captain of the Bruins, he became the first player born inside the Iron Curtain to hold that title while leading his team to a Stanley Cup.
Best-Case Scenario: He continues to lead this team while scoring 20 goals for the first time in his career.
Chara can physically take over a game like no other player in league history. His slap shot will also continue to terrify and intimidate opposing goalies.
Worst-Case Scenario: Age starts to catch up with him.
At 35 and about to begin his 15th NHL season, Chara has logged a ton of ice time. He has never been known as a good skater, and although his reach can overcome a lot, the giant Slovak is going to start slowing down at some point.
3. Milan Lucic
Lucic isn't too popular in Buffalo.
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As if Chara isn't imposing enough, factor into the mix 24-year old Milan Lucic.
The term "power forward" doesn't begin to describe Lucic and his bruising style of play. He's just like Chara in that he can physically dominate games and intimidate opponents.
Ask the Buffalo Sabres about that. There's a reason no one challenged him after he ran into Ryan Miller in November of last year. They were all scared!
At 6'4" and 228 pounds, it's hard to blame them, even though retaliating for a hit on your goalie is an unwritten rule at every level of hockey.
Lucic led the Bruins in goals with 30 in 2010-11 and chipped in 61 points. He also had 135 PIM, which makes him the kind of player everyone wants on their team.
Best-Case Scenario: He ups his goal total to the 35-40 range and maintains his reputation as one of the most feared men in the NHL.
It's a safe assumption that his offensive game will improve from year to year.
Worst-Case Scenario: He starts to become a target, if he hasn't already. This could lead to injury or simply him losing focus on scoring goals and instead spend too much time in the box.
4. Tyler Seguin
Tyler Seguin is the most talented offensive player Boston has.
We talked earlier about how the Bruins don't have that one superstar player. At least not yet, they don't.
Tyler Seguin was the second pick overall in 2010. Boston acquired the pick in the Phil Kessel trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs. They chose well.
Seguin led the team in scoring last year with 67 points in only his second full year in the NHL.
As Allen Muir of SI.com reported, he just signed a six-year, $34.5 million extension. Muir provided this analysis as well:
Seguin gets paid now for potential rather than past performance, but the B's aren't exactly putting their money on a long shot here. The 20-year-old led Boston with 29 goals last season and represented the team at the All-Star Game. If he's not the face of the franchise now, he will be soon. Just as surely as he'll be the team's leading scorer for some time to come.
Best-Case Scenario: He builds upon his 2011-12 season and blossoms into a star.
Look for 30-35 goals and closer to 80 points this time around.
Worst-Case Scenario: Like the possibility with any 20-year-old, he lets the money go to his head.
Seguin needs to avoid putting pressure on himself to outplay his contract and just concentrate on improving every facet of his game.
5. Tuukka Rask
Rask has big shoes to fill this year.
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The final major player we're going to talk about also happens to be the most important.
With Tim Thomas announcing that he was taking the upcoming season off for personal reasons, that leaves Tuukka Rask as the B's starting goalie.
Let's be clear here. It's not like he hasn't performed at a high level in this league before.
He's the only rookie goalie in NHL history to lead the league with a sub-2.00 goals against average as well as lead the league in save percentage. That year he supplanted Thomas as the starter.
The question remains, though. For a guy who's never played more than 45 games in a season, is he ready to shoulder the load of 60-65 games and carry this team to the playoffs?
Best-Case Scenario: He embraces the pressure but also the opportunity.
If Rask plays like he did in 2009-10, Thomas becomes expendable if he decides he wants to come back next year.
Worst-Case Scenario: He's unable to remain consistent and makes Bruins fans long for Thomas.
If that occurs, the Bruins will be in trouble if they're forced to rely on a then 39-year old Thomas.