Revisiting Bold Bruins Predictions From Preseason At Team’s Halfway Point
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BOSTON (CBS) — With a 3-2 overtime win at home over the Nashville Predators, the Bruins victoriously hit the halfway point of their season on Thursday night. There’s not too much time to reflect, as the first-place B’s hit the ice again on Saturday afternoon to begin the second half of the year.
Yet before they do, why not take a quick look back to early October, when I made four “bold” Bruins predictions for the year that lay ahead, to see how the Bruins have lived up to preseason expectations.
Bold Prediction No. 1: B’s Will Finish In The Top Three In Goals Scored
Result Thus Far: Not Quite
The Bruins are markedly improved in this area, as their 2.90 goals per game is a jump of .25 goals per game from last season. They finished last year tied with Carolina for 13th in the league, and this year, they’re currently ranked sixth.
Yet sixth is not in the top three, of course, and the Bruins are .31 goals per game behind Anaheim, currently ranked third. They may not quite get there, but they’ve still succeeded in this area.
Bold Prediction No. 2: Tuukka Rask Will Finish Just Outside Of Vezina Consideration
Result Thus Far: Dead Wrong
I wrote this prediction expecting Tuukka Rask to have a very solid but not quite exceptional season following his run to the Stanley Cup Final and his signing of a mega-deal in the offseason. I was wrong.
Tuukka currently leads the NHL in shutouts with four, and he ranks third in save percentage (.932) and fifth in goals-against average (1.99), though Brian Elliot (ranks second) has only played 17 games and Ben Scrivens (fourth) has only played 19 games. Rask is also fourth in the league in wins, on pace to start a career high 64 games in what will be his first full 82-game season as a No. 1 netminder.
In short, Rask has been remarkably consistent, a trademark of his career thus far, and if the season were to end today, the 26-year-old Finn would be right in the thick of the Vezina conversation.
Bold Prediction No. 3: Loui Eriksson Will Lead The Team In Scoring
Result Thus Far: Not Even Close
On Oct. 3, I wrote of Eriksson: “As long as he stays healthy, he has the talent around him to set a career high in points and lead the team.”
At least I set myself up with that qualifier.
Eriksson currently ranks 10th on the team in scoring, though it’s through no real fault of his own. He was concussed on a dirty hit by Buffalo’s John Scott on Oct. 23, costing him five games, and he was concussed again on Dec. 7 when Brooks Orpik hit the Bruins winger when he didn’t have the puck. That concussion has Eriksson still sidelined. He’s missed 12 games (13 if you count the Pittsburgh game, as he only played 21 seconds in it) and counting since the Orpik hit. It’s simply been tough for Eriksson to really get going this season, as he played in eight games before the first concussion and 16 before the second.
Interestingly, in a scenario nobody predicted, Reilly Smith — the player thought to be a throw-in as part of the Tyler Seguin-Loui Eriksson trade — ranks second on the team in points (31), trailing only David Krejci, and first on the team in goals (14). Smith, a 22-year-old who’s played more NHL games this season than he had in the past two combined for Dallas, has helped ease the pain for the Bruins with Eriksson missing so much time.
Bold Prediction No. 4: The Bruins Won’t Win The Stanley Cup
Result Thus Far: Unknown
Obviously, this result won’t be known until the spring, but there’s no doubt that the Bruins have already established themselves as a top team in the Eastern Conference, one that is once again positioned to make some noise come playoff time. They’re on pace to finish the season with 112 points, which would be their best since 2008-09, when they finished one win shy of the Presidents’ Trophy. For comparison, in last year’s lockout-shortened season, they finished on a 106-point pace.
With a 17-4-2 record at the TD Garden, the Bruins have also established themselves as a truly dominant team on home ice, which is sure to play a factor if they end up playing, say, Pittsburgh in the conference finals (the Penguins are 17-3-0 on home ice). With the Bruins trailing the Penguins by three points in the Eastern Conference (with one game in hand), home-ice advantage could very well play a big role in the postseason.
For now, the Bruins have positioned themselves very well for another run at the Cup, which was to be expected. But they recently lost Dennis Seidenberg for the year, removing from the mix a top-pair defenseman who helped hold Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla scoreless in last year’s conference finals. History still remains no friend, as the 2009 Penguins were the only Cup Final loser since 1984 to return to the finals the following year.
There’s certainly no reason to say that the Bruins can’t win the Stanley Cup. But looking at what lies ahead, the task remains just as difficult — if not more so — than it did back in October.