BOSTON -- It is a simple plan, but not the easiest to execute: Teams in most sports want to be strong in the middle of the playing surface.
For baseball teams, it is about defense up the middle -- catcher, shortstop, center field. In soccer, successful clubs look for strength in central defense and central midfield, and build out from there. A basketball team with an elite center is almost by default a playoff contender.
This idea works in hockey as well, and the past two Stanley Cup champions have adhered to a similar blueprint. Find a goalie. Find an elite defenseman (or two). Find an elite center (or two). Figure the rest out.
The 2013 Boston Bruins look a lot like the 2011 edition that won the Cup. They have replaced Tim Thomas with Tuukka Rask, but otherwise the key components to the backbone of their stifling defense -- center Patrice Bergeron and defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg -- remain the same.