By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent
Oh you haven’t heard? The Boston Bruins’ championship run from last season was a fluke. They’re nothing to worry about.
Are they a good team? Sure. Very good, actually. But true Cup contenders? Nope. C’mon, have you seen the statistics? It’s almost impossible to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in today’s NHL. Plus, every other contender in the East improved in the offseason.
If you’ve been paying attention to the opinions of national pundits in the opening days of the season, this is what they’d lead you to believe: last year’s Bruins were a great story, but there won’t be a sequel.
This is a bit odd.
It’s not often that a championship team is able to keep the vast majority of their roster, yet enter the following season with lower expectations than they had set in place in October of the previous year. But that appears to be the case for Boston.
Call me old fashioned, but this seems to be a bit disrespectful to the reigning Cup holders.
There’s no doubt that last season’s run was unlikely. But general manager Peter Chiarelli saw the state of affairs in the East, with many squads either underachieving or limping into the post-season, and decided to go for broke. Chiarelli acquired what turned out to be the missing pieces of the puzzle in Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Tomas Kaberle. From there, the Bruins relied on grit, toughness, luck, and the spectacular play of Tim Thomas to capture their first Stanley Cup title in 39 years.
So, the question becomes, why is the hockey world so quick to count out the Bruins this year? After all, this is a team that came back from being down two games to none in two playoff series, won three Game 7s, and beat the President Trophy winner and heavily favored Vancouver Canucks on their home ice in Game 7 of the Cup Final. Are the Bruins expected to just be thankful for last year and concede as soon as they face adversity?
Don’t count on it.
The Bruins are well aware of the odds. They’ve heard the theory that teams will be gunning for them this year (as if they’d simply rolled over for Boston last season). They know Tim Thomas is now 37 years of age, and that he may very well return to the play of a mere mortal goaltender. But, honestly, what are they supposed to do with this information?
The only productive thing that the Bruins can do is bottle it for inspiration.
Last year Boston sought redemption for their historic meltdown against Philadelphia in the 2010 Conference semi-finals. They were seen as a team destined to fall short of their ultimate goal. But the Bruins rallied together and persevered. It’s quite possible they’ll do something similar this year.
Is it likely that there will be a seventh Stanley Cup banner being raised to the rafters of TD Garden one year from now? No. But Boston has the tools in place to make it a distinct possibility.
If you’d like to look past a team loaded with young talent, leadership, perennial Norris trophy candidate Zdeno Chara, the goaltending tandem of Conn Smythe and Vezina trophy winner Tim Thomas and young gun Tuukka Rask, coming off of a Stanley Cup championship run…good luck with that.