If you believe in the maxim that defense wins championships, well, then meet the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
The Big Why: It might be hard to find a better defensive team than the Boston Bruins, whose 2.30 goals-against per game is the best mark in the Eastern Conference and second-best in the League.
Boston's own-zone prowess should not come as a surprise, however, as they possess one of the game's best goalies. Tim Thomas is enjoying a season for the ages. Tim Thomas, a candidate for both the Vezina and Hart trophies, has a 2.00 goals-against average this season and his save percentage of .938 was the best in the League. His back-up, Tuukka Rask, is also no slouch, checking in at 2.67 GAA and 11 wins.
Thomas also gets a lot of help from Zdeno Chara, Boston's rock on the blue line. Only five defensemen average more ice time per game than Chara's 25:26 – and four of those five play in the Western Conference. Chara skates in all situations and physically intimidates opposing forwards. He fits the bill -- you might even say he is the 2011 prototype--as a playoff game-changer.
The Big Uh-Oh: Really, the only question facing the Bruins may be if they can score enough goals to lift Lord Stanley's hardware. Milan Lucic is their only 30-goal scorer and they didn't have a player reach the 70-point mark.
Final Argument: But, history is on Boston's side this April, May and June. Last season, the Bruins suffered an epic loss in the first round, coughing up a three-games-to-none lead to Philadelphia to lose in seven games. As painful as it might have been, that collapse looks to be the character-defining loss that most championship teams need to reach the Promised Land.
Believe it. Boston will become the second-straight Original Six team to erase a long drought without the Stanley Cup. Last season, Chicago ended its drought at 49 years. This spring, Boston puts a 39-year-old Cup-less streak to rest.