BOSTON (CBS) – I’m not a pink hat. To be honest, I don’t even like the color pink. I’m among the millions of sports fans living in greater Boston who just happens to be female.
But I also work at the city’s top sports radio station, and here’s my take on the much-anticipated return of the NHL.
The LA Kings were the last team to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup, and that was way back on June 6th of last year. Who knew the next season would be locked out for 113 days, and that the first puck wouldn’t drop until mid-way through the following January? It was ugly, that’s for sure.
Is everyone happy with Gary Bettman or the deal? No. Will the current CBA solve all of the league’s problems in the long run? Probably not. Owners have different priorities than GMs, coaches, players and fans. No one got exactly what they wanted, but Bettman did his job and Fehr did his; now it’s a 48 game sprint to the finish which means every one counts.
The race begins for the Boston Bruins on Saturday at 7pm against the NY Rangers, who may still be sour about their loss to the Devils in the Eastern Conference finals. On paper, New York’s defense looks tough. They also have one of the best netminders in the league. Oh, and they acquired Rick Nash, so with all of that, is looks like the Blueshirts are in a position to be a Stanley Cup contender again this year.
The Bruins had a low roster turnover, which means they’ll spend less time working on chemistry or studying plays, and their coaching staff has remained stable as well. In a shortened season, this could work to the team’s advantage.
But, like any team, there are still a few things to cause some concern before the puck drops. How is the health of Nathan Horton? He’s got a concussion history and was sidelined for the last 36 games. What kind of game shape is Milan Lucic in? Did he do enough during the 113 days off the ice to be ready for the start of the truncated season? Guess we’ll find out soon enough. Of the first line, David Krejci was the only one who skated during the lockout, playing for HC Pardubice of the Czech League.
And, of course, there is Tuukka Rask? How will he handle the pressure of being the team’s No. 1 goalie? (Hopefully better than Rajon Rondo has handled being the ‘leader’ of the Celtics). What about the unfamiliar — Ryan Spooner, Chris Bourque, Jordan Caron, Lane MacDermid, and Dougie Hamilton? Can they contribute at the NHL level?
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These are all questions we’ll soon have answers to. But the Bruins retained almost their entire offense and there are four veterans still skating on defense. I’m optimistic this season, unlike last season, will last beyond the first round of the playoffs.
After one FINAL delay during NFL playoff weekend, hockey is finally and officially back. So stuff your sorries in a sack, turn up the Audioslave, and drop the puck.
Tracy Clements is a weekend producer on 98.5 The Sports Hub. You can follow her on twitter at @clementine_12.