BST&N’s Boston Bruins 2013-14 Season Preview
The long awaited start of the Boston Bruins’ 2013-14 NHL season is upon us. The B’s have made a lot of moves in the offseason, which means they are going to look a little different in the opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Among those gone are Nathan Horton, Andrew Ference, Jaromir Jagr, Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, and Anton Khudobin. To replace those players the Bruins brought in Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, and Chad Johnson. They will also use players from within the organization like Carl Soderberg, Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug, and Jordan Caron to fill in the spots left vacated.
Here is how I believe the Bruins’ lineup will look on opening day line by line, and what to expect from each line.
Milan Lucic -David Krejci- Jarome Iginla: This line is going to be difficult to stop once chemistry is developed between the three players. Iginla brings more leadership and experience to this line than the player he is replacing in Nathan Horton. Iginla is no spring chicken, but he is still dangerous a shooter as anyone in this game, and I believe he will score 30+ goals playing on this line with Krejci and Lucic. Iggy will also play a part in resurrecting the Bruins’ powerplay. Lucic is coming off an outstanding playoff run, in which he completely made us forget about a less than spectacular regular season. Playing with childhood hero Jarome Iginla will likely mean wonders to the still young power forward, and I would be willing to bet that he will also reach the 30 goal plateau this season. Very few players can impact a game the way Lucic can. Hopefully he brings that intensity to every game this season. Krejci was recently awarded the “A” on his sweater to be rotated with Chris Kelly, and he is much deserving. There are few players on the B’s that elevate their game like Krejci does come playoff time. He will be playing with two big wingers that will create tons of space for him to operate. If all goes according to plan, it is not out of the realm of possibility to see Krejci reach career highs in point totals. This will be a dominant line.
Loui Eriksson -Patrice Bergeron- Brad Marchand: You could make an argument that this will be the best two-way line in all of hockey this season. Newcomer Loui Eriksson is arguably one of the most underrated players in all of the NHL. He is a 70+ point winger with an excellent game in all three zones. Placing him with Bergeron and Marchand will not just create an elite scoring line, but an elite shutdown line as well. Marchand was very good all year for Boston. He led the team in points during the regular season and was a force in the playoffs until he reached the finals where he disappeared. Marchand has good abilities in all three zones like his linemates and is a pest like no other. I think this will be a good season for him as he will likely build upon last season’s great campaign. Centering this line is Patrice Bergeron. Bergeron is essentially a legend in Boston now after his heroic playoff performance despite catastrophic injuries. I also think he was robbed of his second consecutive Selke award last season, but I expect him to win it again with yet another excellent two-way winger on his line in Eriksson. This line has the potential to have two 30+ goal scorers on it like the Krejci line. All this while shutting down the opposing team’s best line.
Carl Soderberg -Chris Kelly- Reilly Smith: The third line was a bit of a rollercoaster last season for the Bruins. Chris Kelly went from a career year, to a hopelessly lousy one last season. The turmoil this line suffered is part of the reason Rich Peverley was shipped out of town along with Tyler Seguin. This season, the line will hopefully see some solidarity with the additions of Carl Soderberg who signed at the end of last season, and Reilly Smith who came over in the Seguin trade. Kelly will provide that excellent veteran leadership and two-way play that has been a staple in his game throughout his NHL career. With his new linemates, it is not impossible for him to score 15+ goals this season, while still killing off penalties and shutting down opposing lines. Soderberg will start the season on the IR, but he is my pick for Bruins’ X-factor this season. He is a big winger with a good hockey IQ, and can crash the net with authority. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him score 20+ goals this season, with the potential to add more. Smith was a standout at Miami University and has been solid in his stints in the NHL. I believe his ability to carry the puck, along with his good skating, will help him carve out a niche with Kelly and Soderberg. These three should help create a very good third line with the potential to put up some much needed secondary scoring.
Daniel Paille -Gregory Campbell- Shawn Thornton: This is one of the best fourth lines in hockey. These three have been killing it together ever since they were assembled in 2011. Paille had quite the season last year, and he was absolutely robbed of the B’s seventh skater award by pink hats everywhere. I would have liked to see Paille get some third line minutes, but I can’t blame Coach Julien for keeping him with Soupy and Thornton. Campbell is coming off a broken leg suffered against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but has looked good throughout camp, and will likely be able to start the season without any problems. Thornton was very public is his disappointment with losing in the finals against the Chicago Blackhawks. I expect him to come out with a chip on his shoulder this season, and hopefully reach his 2011 point totals where he scored 10 goals and 10 assists.
Zdeno Chara – Johnny Boychuk: This has been the Bruins regular season top pairing for the last three seasons, and if it aint broke don’t fix it. Boychuk’s regular season was a little disappointing, but his playoff performance was stellar. You could even say that he is still on this team only because of his playoff performance. I think he is going to have a good year playing within the Bruins’ new look defense which is focused on being quicker, with better puck movement. Chara is one of the league’s best and is consistently excellent every season for the B’s. Unfortunately he looked tired during the finals and the Hawks were able to move around him like no team ever has. This season will likely see his minutes trimmed down to keep him in a better state of conditioning throughout this season. It will also help him maintain his elite level of shutdown defense throughout the postseason as well. Chara is one of the many Bruins who could’ve been better in the finals, and he will likely have a lot to prove to himself following the Stanley Cup finals loss.
Dennis Seidenberg – Dougie Hamilton: This is the same pairing the Bruins started with last season and I expect them to do the same this season. Hamilton has a ton of upside, and despite some rocky moments, had an excellent rookie campaign. He still has a way to go, so pairing him with the defensive rock that is Seidenberg is a wise decision. Hamilton will likely improve over time, but defensemen develop slower than forwards do in the NHL. There is a ton to get excited about with Dougie, but he did get outplayed by Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski in the playoffs last year, so there’s that. Seidenberg didn’t have the best playoff performance last season, but he is too good to let that happen again. His offensive numbers are down since joining the Bruins, but Seidenberg is such a strong defender. I think we are going to see a good season from the German born defenseman and hopefully some more offense too.
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid: Krug burst onto the scene last year during the Bruins’ second round matchup with the New York Rangers. He scored 4 goals against Henrik Lundqvist with some dazzling plays, and should be a part of the B’s starting roster tomorrow. He may be undersized, but his skating ability, hockey IQ, hands, and offensive game overshadow his stature. He has the potential to be a strong puck mover for the B’s; something they have been trying to find for years. We are going to find out very quickly as to whether or not he was a flash in the pan. McQuaid is a rock on the backend, and is a tough customer. He is solid in his own end and he rarely makes bad decisions with the puck. He is always willing to stick up for his teammates, which is an invaluable characteristic, especially on this team.
Tuukka Rask – Chad Johnson: Rask was a monster for the Bruins last season in both the regular season, and the playoffs. This is why it was a no brainer for the B’s to give him an 8 year contract extension worth $7.5 million per season. Rask should have been a Vezina finalist last season, but was denied. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the him to win a Vezina or two during the length of his new extension though, as he is a top 5 goaltender in the NHL. I think the Bruins’ defense will be much improved this year, and no one is going to benefit more than Tuukka. Hopefully he can be a horse for the B’s as they try and get back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Johnson was signed in free agency out of Phoenix and will serve as Rask’s backup to start the season. I personally think that Niklas Svedberg should have gotten the opportunity instead, but he was sent down for what I believe to be salary cap reasons (Johnson makes half of what Svedberg makes). Hopefully Johnson can play well for the Bruins, as backups are totally underrated when it comes to the success of an NHL team during the regular season.
For further reading into the upcoming season, you can look into the newly formed Atlantic Division and what that means for the Boston Bruins here. You can also look at BST&N’s top ten games to look forward to this season here.
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