Fairly or unfairly, the 2009-10 Boston Bruins season will forever be defined by a 3-0 playoff series collapse.
How the 2010-11 season is defined has a lot to do with how the Bruins rebound from blowing a 3-0 playoff series lead to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and how they bolster an offense that rated dead last in the NHL last season.
Nobody can honestly say they saw the 3-0 series collapse coming, but looking back maybe it was not a total shock. Boston somehow made the postseason with the worst offense in the league, an ignoble feat that has not been accomplished since the NHL expanded to 22 teams. That lack of offense finally caught up to them in Games 5 and 6 when they mustered only a single goal.
The offense was more than respectable in 2008-09, but last season it saw a 74-goal dropoff. The loss of Phil Kessel to Toronto in a move for the future certainly contributed to the offensive meltdown as did the concussion sustained by Marc Savard.
Just who was Boston’s leading goal scorer? Marco Sturm, who scored 22 goals in relative obscurity.
Considering Boston went 39-39-13 to finish with 91 points and the No. 6 seed with an offense that bad is quite the compliment to the defense, which is anchored by goalie Tuukka Rask. The Vezina Trophy went to Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, but it was Rask who led the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. The Boston defense ranked second-best in the league last season.
The face of that defense is Zdeno Chara. In a contract year, expect Chara to return to 2009 form when he won the Norris Trophy. That bodes well for his defensive partner Johnny Boychuk.
Coach Claude Julien has now established some consistency, guiding the Bruins to three consecutive playoff appearances since being hired.
The Boston Bruins schedule begins with a home-and-home series with Phoenix, starting in Boston on Saturday, Oct. 9 and concluding the next night in Phoenix. The Bruins will have to be wary as the calendar nears 2011 when they play seven of eight games on the road. That is right around the same time last season when Boston went through a post-Winter Classic hangover (2-10-2) and nearly missed the playoffs.
The Bruins took a chance on a reclamation project when they traded for former No. 3 overall draft pick Nathan Horton from Florida. Horton, who was drafted in 2003, is expected to be paired with Milan Lucic and Savard when healthy. Boston also went out and traded for forward Gregory Campbell. The first tangible return from the Kessel deal is last year’s No. 2 overall pick, left winger Tyler Seguin, where an immediate impact is expected from him.
Savard, Lucic, and Horton will lead the first line, but the second line could factor just as important with Patrice Bergeron, Seguin, and 42-year old Mark Recchi (yes, he still plays).
Boston Bruins Predictions: Outlook
The difference between the 2008-09 Bruins and last year’s Bruins comes down to offense. The defense has been there for the Bruins and that helped them earn the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference two years ago. However, the 71-goal dropoff had a lot to do with Boston having to fight to get into the playoffs. That offense should return this year with a healthy Savard and impact from new weapons added through trades and the draft.
Boston Bruins: NHL Odds
Boston had four chances to win one game and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals last year, but came up short. To get to the finals this year the Bruins' odds are +400. They are favored to win the Northeast Division (-125). They are listed at +800 to win the Eastern Conference and +1400 to win the Stanley Cup. The over/under for total wins is 45.5. Odds are courtesy of BetUS.
NHL Predictions for Boston Bruins
The Northeast Division could end up being a tossup and -125 is not exactly an attractive price. What is an attractive price for this Boston is team is +400, the price for them to get over the hump and reach the Eastern Conference Finals.