Boston Bruins: Contenders or Pretenders?

Dan CallagyContributor IDecember 13, 2008

The 20-5-4 start is surprisingly the second best start in Bruins history. Only the 1929-1930 Bruins have had more points at this point.

This is also the fourth best start in hockey history, with the 1929-1930 Bruins, 2005-2006 Senators, and this year's San Jose Sharks having had more points at this point in the season.

Are we looking at a potential Stanley Cup Final match-up with the Bruins and Sharks, or is the Bruins streak going to end?

The goaltending is the one place they don't have to worry about. Tim Thomas is a wall of steel with a league leading 1.96 goals against average, and a second highest save percentage with .938.

Even his back-up, Manny Fernandez, is in the top five in those categories. He is fourth with a 2.08 goals against average, and fifth with a .925 save percentage.

On the defensive end, they have been stunning. They boast the league's 10th best penalty kill unit with an 82 percent penalty kill.

Their defensive unit is also stunning. Zdeno Chara and Aaron Ward are the main defensive guys. But just look at the youth and talent behind them. Matt Hunwick and Matt Lashoff are both 22 and have contributed a huge amount to the Bruins.

Hunwick scored a game-deciding goal vs. the Maple Leafs in November, and Lashoff has made huge contributions to stopping break-aways and blocking screaming slap-shots.

There is enough offense on the Bruins to feed a town of 2,000 people. Phil Kesell is third in the league with 18 goals, and Marc Savard is third in the league in assists with 26. Also, Milan Lucic is first in the league in hits with 114 as an offensive skater, and has contributed with 10 goals and 14 assists. Fortunately, they are all on the same line.

The Bruins shouldn't even have a first, second, third, or fourth line. Their second and third line consists of six players with more than five goals, one of them on the injured reserve. They don't have to worry about the future either. Having nine guys on offense under 26 is definitely a help.

Their head coach, Claude Julien, is definitely a contender for coach of the year. Making the Bruins the second best team in the NHL from barely an eighth seed in last year's playoffs, is going to look good on his resume for coach of the year.

Contenders or pretenders will be your decision. As for me, I think they are definite contenders.