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BOSTON (CBS) – One year after the buzz word around the Boston Bruins’ dressing room, especially while dealing with the media, was redemption, the new phrase that pays is “repeat champions.”
Just like the Bruins weren’t shying away from their historic failure of the spring of 2010, as they prepare to open their title defense Thursday night at home against Philadelphia they’re not hiding from the history that tells them no team has won consecutive Stanley Cup championship since Detroit in 1997 and 1998.
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“It’s one of those things that you want to be aware of the possibility of struggles and this and that,” defenseman Andrew Ference recently explained. “But it’s no different than other seasons. I mean you’re going to have dips in every season, whether you’re defending or not. If you have a good team, teams are always going to be out for you. I think it’s more a matter of having those things out in the open. If things need to be talked about, you have an open enough team that can talk about those things and confront issues, whether it’s as a team or as individuals, you can approach them instead of letting them bubble over in the corner until they explode.”
It’ll be time for all the talk to at least quiet down when the Bruins and Flyers hit the TD Garden ice Thursday. Whether the Bruins repeat will be influenced by numerous things. Here are three big reasons the Bruins will repeat and three more on why they won’t:
Why the Bruins will repeat
- The Best Goaltending in the League
There’s no position that’s more important in the sport, and amazingly even if Thomas completely falls apart, the Bruins have Tuukka Rask. Just two seasons ago he led the league in save percentage and goals-against average and he’d be ready to step in and replace Thomas. With these two rotating, there are no easy night for the Bruins’ opposing shooters.
Listen: Tim Thomas on Toucher & Rich
- Underdog Mentality
Just like last June, look around and try to find any national media outlets that are picking the Bruins to win again. You’ll hardly find one. This is partly because of the struggles defending champions typically endure. But the other part is that most who thought the Bruins weren’t talented enough to beat Vancouver (or even get past three rounds of Eastern Conference playoffs) see mostly the same team and still hold the same opinion. The Bruins, a team of “counted-out” types like Thomas, Nathan Horton and Dennis Seidenberg, thrive on disrespect. There’s still plenty of that out there.
- Just Enough New Faces
Although he’s not a new face, Tyler Seguin’s role with the Bruins will be new. He did the necessary work in the offseason and so far it looks like that’s paid off. With him in the Bruins’ top six and on the power play, Boston’s offense should be more potent.
Defenseman Joe Corvo’s addition should also give the power play more punch. But just as important will be his solid first passes and vision at even strength. Forwards should find themselves in better scoring opportunities with Corvo on the back end to boost the puck movement.
Why the Bruins won’t win the Cup
Outside of the Marc Savard situation and then the Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron concussion absences, the Bruins barely faced a serious injury to a key contributor last season – particularly in the playoffs, when their opponents were really fighting through major ailments. Sooner or later, with the rugged style most Bruins play with, this could catch up to the Black and Gold.
- Not Enough Power
By all accounts Corvo is an upgrade on Tomas Kaberle on Boston’s power play. The man-advantage clicked at a great rate during the preseason. But last season, even without Savard, the Bruins should’ve been able to thrive when a man up with the likes of David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Kaberle skating major minutes. Yet the power play was a failure until the Cup final. We won’t know if the PP is any better until the games start, we see how Corvo contributes and see how the forwards respond when needed to go to the net and do a little mucking.
- Potential Drop-Offs
While someone like Seguin has nowhere to go but up, there are young stars that might need to further exceed expectations. When you look at Milan Lucic’s 30 goals and Brad Marchand’s 21 (plus his playoff production), you have to wonder if those guys can repeat or exceed those performances. And if they suffer a downturn, will Seguin and others be able to pick up the slack and at least have the Bruins at the production levels they were at last season? We’ll find out.
Bruins prediction: Northeast Division champions; Eastern Conference Final loss to New York Rangers.
Stanley Cup prediction: Chicago over New York Rangers. The Blackhawks use their perfect combination of skill and grit, their experience (or what’s left of it) from their 2010 run and the goaltending Corey Crawford to take down Henrik Lundqvist and the Cinderella Rangers who make it through the East without any home-ice advantage.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operates TheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.