The Boston Bruins
are going to have a chance to defend their title after clinching a spot in the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Here is a look at some reasons why the Bruins will be back in the postseason, and have a chance to be the first team to repeat in 20 years.
1. The Bruins were one of the best teams in the history of the League for two months:
Boston began the season 3-7-0 and plenty was written about a "Cup hangover." When the calendar turned to November, the Bruins went on a historic run. They went 23-3-1 from Nov. 1 to Jan. 5, outscoring the competition 114-43 (that's an average of 4.2 goals for, 1.6 against). Boston had seven shutouts during the streak, and won by four or more goals eight times. The Bruins are only 22-25-2 this season before and after that amazing two-month stretch.
2. They had one of the top goaltending tandems in the League, before an injury: Tim Thomas
Goalie - BOS
GAA: 2.38 | SVP: 0.920
has not been a Vezina-winning caliber goaltender this season (like he was twice in the previous three campaigns), but he has still been very good -- and backup Tuukka Rask
has been outstanding. Rask had a 2.05 goals-against average and .929 save percentage before getting hurt, while Thomas has a 2.39 GAA and .920 save percentage. The Bruins are fifth in the League in goals allowed per game, and having two strong goaltenders played a large part in that.
3. They had two of the five best lines in hockey, before an injury:
Boston dominated games at even strength this season when everyone was healthy. The top line of David Krejci
flanked by Milan Lucic
and Nathan Horton
was great, while the "second" line of Patrice Bergeron
between Tyler Seguin
and Brad Marchand
was spectacular. All six guys were among the League leaders in plus-minus per 60 minutes at even strength before Horton sustained his second concussion in less than a year.
4. Patrice Bergeron is a bona-fide star:
Thomas is one of the League's best goalies and Zdeno Chara
is one of the NHL's best defensemen, but Bergeron has made it clear this season that he deserves to be considered one of the top all-round forwards as well. Bergeron has 20 goals and 58 points, but he is also a leading candidate for the Selke Trophy and is probably the guy most likely to give Pavel Datsyuk
a run for the title of "best two-way forward" in the NHL.
5. Tyler Seguin made "The Leap":
Stealing a phrase from a certain famous Boston-based sports writer (and Bruins fan) there, but Seguin was a role player for the Bruins in his rookie year who has become one of the team's top guys in year two. Seguin leads the team with 26 goals and 61 points, and has been a dynamic two-way player next to Bergeron.
6. The Bruins were healthy on the blue line:
Injuries may have been a bit of a problem up front and in goal with Horton, Rask and Rich Peverley
all missing significant time, but the team's defense corps has remained mostly intact. Each of the team's top six defensemen have played at least 66 of the team's 76 games, and the Bruins added Greg Zanon
and Mike Mottau
for insurance purposes at the trade deadline. Zdeno Chara
and Dennis Seidenberg
have been anchors for the top two pairings, while Johnny Boychuk
and Andrew Ference
have proven to be solid top-four guys. Joe Corvo
has struggled at times, but it has been as the fifth or sixth guy on the depth chart instead of in the top two or four at other stops in his career.