The Boston Bruins' Tough Road to the Stanley Cup

Wayne Whittaker@@WayneTwittakerCorrespondent IMarch 18, 2009

If you're a Boston Bruins fan, there is no better feeling in the world than warm-weather hockey season.

It's hard to believe that it has already been a year since the epic Boston-Montreal playoff series that built the very foundation of character today's Boston Bruins exhibit. Those seven games were bittersweet, and on the eve of game seven I was satisfied with the Bruins' performance, and ready to accept the evening's outcome.

But this year is different.

Since November, Boston has known they were a playoff-caliber team. The seed of optimism was planted. And expectation grew. A first round exit would not be acceptable this year, not with the way this team has played.

But lately, the Bruins have been stumbling. A rare bout of overconfidence? Perhaps. Let's face it, coach Claude Julien's club hasn't had much to play for recently.

That is of course, until the once seemingly insurmountable lead in the Eastern Conference slowly shrunk in size until it's current state...of 4 points.

Yes, the Bruins will win the Northeast Division. And yes, the B's are still in the hunt for the President's Trophy (awarded to the team with the best regular season record). But in the past month, Boston has lacked the spark that was so prominent for most of the season.

All slumps aside, the Bruins are still on pace for their best record since 2004, and perhaps they're best since the days of Bobby Orr.

And as Boston playoff hockey nears, let's break down the Bruins' chase for Lord Stanley's Cup from start to finish.

So who will the Bruins be facing in round one? That has yet to be decided as only eight points separate the 4th place team in the Eastern Conference to the 10th.

But likely candidates include Carolina, New York, Florida, Pittsburgh and Montreal.



Best Case Scenarios

Boston hasn't won a playoff series since 1999, so it would be a wonderful gift from the hockey gods if the B's could make short work of their first round opponent.


B's swept the season series and something tells me Carolina's luck wouldn't change in the post season.

Result: Bruins sweep.



Bruins were dominant over the Panthers in the regular season, only dropping one of four meetings, with a combined score of 14-5.

Result: Bruins in 5.


Manageable Situations

It won't be easy, but the Killer B's would come through.

New York

The Bruins haven't played great hockey against the Rangers this season. Losing the season series 2-1 with one game left between the two foes. But every game between these clubs has been decided by one goal.

With Thomas in net, and some added intensity I think the Bruins will come through.

Result: Bruins in 6.


Worst Case Scenarios



Yes, this is a different team than last year's Habs. And yes, the Bruins have dominated the bleu, blanc, et rouge in the regular season, but history has a way of repeating itself.

That being said, last year's playoff series reestablished this historic rivalry, and Boston still carries a chip on their shoulder.

Result: Boston in 6.



Now, I am in no way suggesting the NHL is fixed...but Gary Bettman sure loves Crosby. And the referees haven't been the Bruins' greatest allies this season. Oh yeah, and Pittsburgh are the defending Eastern Conference champs.

Having split the season series, this matchup would be intense. Pittsburgh's goaltending would eventually crumble...

Result: Boston in 7.



Hey, the Bruins have made it to the semi-finals! So who's next on the list?

If the playoffs started tomorrow, I see Philadelphia or Pittsburgh as the only realistic opponents for the B's in round two.

Anyway you look at it, the Bruins will have to play top notch hockey to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.



The Flyers have been a formidable foe of the Bruins since last year's Jones-Bergeron debacle. As tough of a matchup as this would be, I can't imagine a Bruins fan who wouldn't want to see a bit of revenge.

Result: Boston in 6.



If the Pens make it into round two, they'll be a tougher team to play against. This is a matchup that's scary for the Bruins. Crosby, Malkin, and Fleury looking to get back into the Eastern Conference Finals? Eek.

Result: Pittsburgh in 7.

But let's assume that doesn't happen shall we?



The Bruins are in the Eastern Conference Finals. But their matchups are tough ones, and it will take a true 60-minute team effort for seven games to beat either of my predictions for opponents.


New Jersey

The season series favors New Jersey (with one game remaining, a can't-miss-matchup on March 22). The Devils also have the best goaltender in NHL history on their side...this should be an amazing series.

But when the dust settles, the Bruins' season just may fall victim to a similar-style team in the New Jersey Devils.

Result:  Devils in 7.



Ovechkin. What more is there to say? How about Green, Semin, Federov, and Clark. The Caps are a high flying, high profile team. But their goaltending just doesn't matchup to a Bruins team looking to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in nearly twenty years.

Result: Boston in 7.



If the Boston Bruins make it to the Stanley Cup finals...well, buckle up.



Sitting just outside the bubble of Cup talk, the Blackhawks are having an amazing season. They are my pick to advance to the Finals, but that's where their run ends.

Result: Boston in 5.


San Jose

To be honest, I don't see the Sharks making it this far. But they are current Cup favorites in the West, and they are a scary team to play against. But Boston is already dying for a rematch.

The return of Joe Thornton to Boston for playoff hockey should return ol' Joe to form.

Result: Boston in 6.



The Champs look to go back-to-back. Only problem is, the Bruins will want it more. Plain and simple, the Boston Bruins want it as bad as the Red Wings.

Result: Boston in 6.


Looking Forward

The playoffs have yet to start and here I am boasting of Bruins' victories.

First things first, the Bruins need to return to form.

A four day rest is just what the Bruins needed after a loss to the Pens. Ease into things with the lowly Kings and set your scopes on Marty Brodeur and Co. for Saturday's marquee match up against the Devils.

The Bruins look to add to their dwindling lead over the Eastern Conference and should do just that against a soft schedule from here on out.

Key games: New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, and Montreal. All possible playoff matchups, B's should look to send a message.

More importantly, however, is that the Bruins shake off this string of sub-par hockey and return to their high-flying ways.


Odds and Ends

Hockey's greatest goaltender, Marty Brodeur, got regular season win number 552 tonight breaking the former record held by Patrick Roy. Congrats!


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