The 2013-14 Boston Bruins are better than the team that lost the 2013 Stanley Cup Final in shocking fashion.
In fact, these Bruins are playing better hockey than the 2011 edition, which defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games to claim the organization’s first Stanley Cup since 1972.
Last spring, the Bruins were 76 seconds away from forcing a Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final only to see a comeback of epic proportions by the visitors turn a one-goal deficit into a 3-2 victory in a stunning 17-second span.
This spring, the Bruins are better than the team that trudged silently off the ice, casting furtive glances back at the improbable pig pile of Hawks at the other end of the TD Garden, cursing what could have been.
Now, they get to atone for the mistakes made last June and they have a team designed to do just that.
The 100-plus points in the standings, the Eastern Conference title, the long winning streaks, the road dominance all point to one undeniable truth. This is a team built to compete when the going gets tough in May and June.
They are loaded at each position necessary to find success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Goalie: Tuukka Rask is a workhorse with a gaudy save percentage and a penchant for winning big games. In two postseasons as a starter, he has won 21 of 35 playoff games.
Defenseman: Zdeno Chara should be a finalist for the Norris Trophy again. He dominates at each end of the ice while playing nearly 25 minutes a game. As a bonus, he has become a real power-play threat by playing around the crease in man-advantage situations.
Center: Boston actually has two top-flight options here. David Krejci, the top-line center, is an underrated performer. In Boston's past two extended postseason runs (2011 and 2013), he has 49 points in 47 games. Patrice Bergeron has been dominant all season and could be the game's best two-way center.
Power forward: Milan Lucic is a game-changer with his unique combination of brute strength and skill that provides matchup issues for the majority of the defensemen in the NHL. He had seven goals and 19 points last postseason.
Special teams: Boston ranks in the top 10 in power-play and penalty-killing efficiencies.
Depth: The Bruins may have the most divergent bottom-six in the League, possessing the ability to deploy their lines in any order despite the game situation. That unpredictability causes matchup difficulties during the course of a series.
Coaching: Claude Julien was on the Canada staff that won a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He coached Boston to the 2011 Stanley Cup and to within two wins of another Cup two years later. He won the Jack Adams in 2009 and is a better coach today. During the first round this spring, he will coach in his 100th playoff game. He has seen it all.
There is no doubt the recipe for success is here. The Bruins have proven that with their regular-season dominance. The motivation is also present; the pain from last season lingers like a healing scar, serving as a reminder of past misfortunes.
That combination will prove a winning formula this June.
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