We're just days away from the Boston Bruins raising their 2010-2011 Stanley Cup Championship banner. I can't believe it. I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime, especially after the junk the Bruins put on the ice from before and after the lockout. With the 2010-2011 season finally finished and the Stanley Cup hangover all but gone in this town, it's time to focus on the 2011-2012 season. With that said, I've been having discussions online and with family and friends about the Bruins and have decided to share those with you. Some of these you may agree with and some of them you may not, but they will definitely spark debate. So here we go, five predictions about the Boston Bruins 2011-2012 season.
After the jump, my five predictions that you'll all probably hate...
Boom, right off the bat I'm coming in controversially. Two years ago, Thomas had a miserable season and didn't even play in the month of March. Thomas looked slow, sluggish and out of position. He ended the year with a 17-18-8 record, a 2.56 GAA and a save percentage of .915. For most starting goalies, these are good numbers but Rask blew them out of the water. He finished the 2009-2010 season with a 22-12-5 record, a 1.97 GAA and a save percentage of .931. Fatigue eventually caught up with Tuukka (and the Bruins) and "the collapse" happened.
Enter 2010-2011. Enter Tim Thomas. Thomas was far and away the best goalie in the NHL last season after getting a fancy new hip in the offseason. He did things that hasn't been done in a Bruins net since the days of Andy Moog. Thomas ended the regular season with a 35-11-9 record and a league best 2.00 GAA and .938 save percentage while breaking the regular season save percentage record held by Dominick Hasek. Thomas then exploded in the playoffs as the greatest thing since sliced bread and Internet porn and was a huge reason (if not THE reason) why the Bruins are raising said banner on Thursday.
Rask in 2010-2011? 11-14-2 record with a 2.67 GAA and a save percentage of .918. Basically a sophomore slump (that I called).
So why do I believe Rask will be the man in Boston? Let's first use an old argument: Tim Thomas is old. He's 37 this year and will be 38 when the playoffs kickoff (should the Bruins make it) [which I think they will]. I believe he had a great season last year because he basically had the second half of 2009-2010 off. He was rested. Last year Boston rode him like a French prostitute through the regular season and the playoffs. Don't forget, these guys stopped playing hockey in June, something a Bruins team hasn't done in their history.
Secondly, I think Rask is poised to break out. Rask's rookie season was unreal. The numbers in the first paragraph speak to that. His second season was less than desirable and he suffered the dreaded sophomore slump (which most starting goalies would take in a heartbeat). I believe that last season humbled Rask and made him hungry to start again. After his rookie season, I thought he was a smug little prick, but I think Thomas was able to smack him in the face with his play and wake the kid up.
When the Bruins drafted Tyler Seguin, there were two school of (rational) thought. The first was that the kid would score 30 goals and win the Calder (basically pull a Jeff Skinner before Jeff Skinner did). The second was that Seguin would be garbage and a complete bust. There's a third thought but it mostly involves glue, glitter and posters that say '#19 - Be Mine'. I may add that if I see any of those in the Garden this year, I'm tearing them up and curbstomping the person who drew it up.
After a tumultuous rookie season, Seguin ended the regular season with 11 goals, 11 assists and a plus/minus of -4 in 74 games. Nothing special right? Fast forward to the playoffs where Seguin had a welcoming part of sorts. Seguin looked more at ease in the playoffs and in 13 playoff games he scored 3 goals and 4 assists with a plus/minus of +5. Remember his series against Tampa?
The kid has wheels and he has a natural scoring ability not seen since...well...Phil Kessel in the 2008-2009 season. I think Claude will be looking to turn Seguin loose a little more than last season. Julien had a tight leash on the kid, scratched him and made him watch games from the press box/halo. This year will be different and people will see why choosing Seguin over Skinner was a smart move (and that debate is so stupid that I can't believe I actually acknowledged it).
News Flash: Zdeno Chara is good. Last season I felt Chara was screwed out of the Norris Trophy. I'll be honest, I don't think Lidstrom should have won it. Part of the reason why the Norris Trophy is a sham is because they base a lot of the winners on their offensive numbers and nothing else. Last season Lidstrom was second amongst defenseman in scoring with 16 goals and 46 assists but his plus/minus was a -2. -2! I think you also need to take teammates in to account when looking at stats like this. Lidstrom played with guys like Datsyuk (51st overall), Zetterberg (9th overall in scoring) and Johan Franzen (69th overall in scoring). Boston's three top scoring forwards? Milan Lucic (40th overall), David Krejci (47th overall) and Patrice Bergeron (59th overall).
You can argue that Lidstrom put up good offensive numbers because he's playing with better offensive players. What did Chara do last season? 13 goals, 44 assists and a league leading plus/minus of +33. +33. That's an amazing stat. Chara was also 6th in the NHL in Time on Ice per game with 25:26. Lidstrom? 28th with 23:28 and he played all 82 games this season. Chara played 81 (he sat out the last game of the season I believe).
So Chara has put up better defensive number, logs more time on the ice and he loses because Lidstrom is able to put up better offensive numbers with a team who has (arguably) better offensive players? Weak sauce.
Part of me believe the NHL gave Lidstrom the trophy because they thought he was going to retire. Guess what? He didn't. Chara still plays in one of the best defensive systems in the NHL and has not one, but two stud goalies playing behind him.
I believe the top three finalists this year will be Chara, Doughty and Weber but the big man takes it.
No matter how this happens, Lucic won't see 20 goals this season. Whether it's a slump of sorts or an injury, I don't see how Lucic produces like he did last season. Let's get this out of the way early, those 30 goals aren't exactly up to snuff. 5 of those 30 were empty net goals so if we're going to play that game, he really scored 25 goals last season. Lucic is a big, tough, physical (and I mean more than domestically) forward who doesn't always play like it. The kid seems to be lost in being a power forward, a two way forward and a scorer.
Taske into account that his playoff performance stunk worse than my 2 month old's diapers and you're looking at a guy who is feast or famine. I feel that this year is a famine year.
Everyone is always on the Capital's jock. Every single year, people write about how good the Crapitals are and how they're going to win a Stanley Cup. I have a better idea, how about this year we write about how they're going to win a round and we can go from there. The Crap are led by that overrated caveman Alexander Ovechkin and are quite the offensive powerhouse. Their issue is two-fold. One, their defense sucks. Everyone is up in arms and giving virtual blowjobs out to Mike Green, but the guy can't stop a nosebleed. Two, their goaltending sucks even more. Sure, the Capitals signed Thomas Voukon but he's spent his career in Florida up until now so what kind of pressure has he faced.
Remember what happened to the last Florida goalie that went to a big market and faced pressure?
If healthy, the Bruins will easily win their division. Buffalo threw loads of money at anyone who could lace up their skates, but that doesn't necessarily mean that chemistry is evident (Hello Red Sox!). The Canadiens didn't do much to improve and Toronto and Ottawa are, well, Toronto and Ottawa.
I think their biggest opposition with be Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, once again. Still, Boston can roll out four solid lines and have one of the best defensive units in the NHL. If they're able to correct their power play issues, this team could make a 2008-2009-esque run at the President's trophy and win the East.
Suck it, Eastern Conference.