Predicting 5 Headlines That Will Be Written During Boston Bruins 2013-14 Season
The Boston Bruins' summer has been loaded with headlines including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final and a number of major offseason moves, and the upcoming season should offer up many more.
With a new-look roster, an expanded division and some high-end young talent, the Bruins promise to provide an action-packed 2013-14 campaign.
Here are five headlines that you could see over the next year:
1. Detroit Red Wings Emerge as Boston's Newest Big Rival
This October the Bruins will be joined by yet another Original Six team in the new Atlantic Division, and the Detroit Red Wings may quickly become Boston's most challenging rival.
The Wings have been hockey's model franchise for decades. Having not missed the playoffs in 22 years, they should now challenge the Bruins as a perennial division favorite.
The Bruins and Red Wings will meet for the first time as division foes on October 5, but they got a jump start on their hostilities with a summer race to the signature of Daniel Alfredsson. The Bruins put up a serious fight for the long-time Ottawa Senators captain, but he eventually inked in Hockeytown.
Along with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, Alfredsson could cause the Bruins fits this year, as two of the NHL's most respected powers duke it out in a heavyweight scrap for the Atlantic crown.
The battle between Datsyuk and Boston's Patrice Bergeron should be particularly fun to watch, as both former-Selke Trophy winners have long fought over the title of hockey's best two-way forward.
If this year's division race ends up as close as it projects to be, these two juggernauts could become instant arch nemeses.
2. Several Bruins Stand out at Sochi Olympics
Just like they were at the 2010 games in Vancouver, the Bruins will be well-represented at next February's Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Most of the Bruins' biggest names will suit up for their respective nations in pursuit of a gold medal. 2010 gold medalist Patrice Bergeron should be a lock to reprise his role for Team Canada, and he could be joined by wingers Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand this time around.
Loui Eriksson posted four points in four games for Sweden in 2010, and he will hope to follow up a May world championship with his first Olympic medal.
Meanwhile Tuukka Rask is set to battle with Pekka Rinne and Antti Niemi for Finland's starting job in net, and a strong tournament for the Bruins netminder could help the Finns to their third straight top-three finish.
Unlike his NHL teammates, Zdeno Chara won't be be surrounded by tons of all-star talent, but he should once again captain a dark-horse Slovakian squad that could pull a few upsets.
So although the Olympic break will empty TD Garden for a few weeks, die hard Bruins fans will have plenty of opportunities to watch their favorite stars play at the highest level until the NHL returns.
3. Matt Fraser Enjoys Breakout Season in Boston
One contender to fill the void left by Rich Peverley on the right side of Boston's third line is youngster Matt Fraser.
The undrafted 23-year-old came to Boston in the Tyler Seguin trade along with Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow and Reilly Smith, and although he has just two NHL points to his name in 13 career games, he could be set for a breakout season.
Despite lacking elite athleticism, Fraser has dominated in the AHL for the last two years. His 70 AHL goals are the most by any player in the past two seasons, and his nose for the net should serve him well in Boston.
A physical and aggressive winger, Fraser is a prototypical Bruin and although he is still raw, he has far more upside than training camp competitor Jordan Caron.
If Fraser earns an NHL roster spot, his stat line could catch a lot of people off guard. Don't expect him to be a star any time soon, but he could give the Bruins' scoring depth a much needed boost.
4. Loui Eriksson Leads the Bruins in Points
Loui Eriksson flew under the radar in Dallas, and a move to a bigger market should finally get him the recognition he deserves.
The Bruins' balanced offense could mean a slight dip in Eriksson's point totals, but the consistently productive winger should still finish first on the team.
Eriksson's point total exceeded that of the Bruins' leader in three of the last four seasons, and his 244 points in that span trail only Jarome Iginla's 255 among current Bruins.
With the 36-year-old Iginla unlikely to match the numbers he routinely posted in his prime, Eriksson should be the clear favorite to succeed Brad Marchand as the Bruins most prolific forward.
No Bruin has posted more than 67 points in a season since Marc Savard and David Krejci did it in 2009. Eriksson has three 70-plus point seasons in his career, and as a prime-aged player he is in line for a few more.
If he stays healthy, the Swede should easily muster 65-75 points, and he should once again flirt with the 30-goal plateau.
5. Tuukka Rask Wins the Vezina Trophy
Tuukka Rask was tremendous in his first season as the Bruins unquestioned starter between the pipes, and the 26-year old could be even better next season.
He finished this past season with the NHL's third best save percentage (.929) and the fourth best goals-against average (2.00). He took his game to an even better level in the postseason.
Rask announced his arrival as an elite NHL netminder in the Eastern Conference Finals, when he held the star-studded Pittsburgh Penguins to just two goals in four games. In that span, he stopped 136 shots while keeping Pens stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Kris Letang and Jarome Iginla off the scoresheet entirely.
Although he could not will the Bruins to their second title in three years, he finished the postseason with a remarkable .940 save percentage.
While proving his masterful skill in net, Rask also demonstrated his ability to stay healthy while playing regularly. Although he has never gone wire-to-wire for the Bruins in an 82-game season, he is absolutely ready for the challenge.
The netminder signed an eight-year contract extension this summer. Now entering the prime of his career, Rask should reward the Bruins' confidence and generosity with a Vezina-caliber season.
He won't be the only star trying to steal the coveted honor from 2013 winner Sergei Bobrovsky, but he certainly deserves to be a preseason favorite.