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Better Know a Rival: Boston Bruins

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After two consecutive non-playoff seasons, the pressure is on in Beantown

NHL: Preseason-Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

What better way to continue our series of Atlantic Division playoff contenders than with the bitter rival of the first team we profiled (Montreal Canadiens for those scoring at home), the Boston Bruins? For the second consecutive year, the Bruins failed to reach the postseason. One of the knockout blows to the Bruins’ playoff chances was the extra point the Hurricanes took from the Bruins in game number 80 in Boston, courtesy of hometown kid Noah Hanifin in his return.

Head coach Claude Julien knows he needs to get back into the postseason - and possibly more than that - to keep his job, and with aging core players, this feels like a team that is in “win now” mode. Otherwise, a complete rebuild will be in the works very soon.

What They Did Last Season

Despite tying for 3rd place in the Atlantic Division with the Detroit Red Wings, the Bruins were kept out of the postseason on a tiebreaker. The Bruins spent most of the season firmly within the playoff picture, but a finishing kick that included only 7 points in their final 12 games ultimately led to their demise. Led by seemingly ageless captain Zdeno Chara, who at age 38 still managed to play 80 games, the Bruins were able to score 240 goals (good for 3rd in the Eastern Conference), but were let down by a thin blueline, even after the acquisition of former Hurricane John-Michael Liles and future Hurricane Lee Stempniak.

Tuukka Rask provided solid, if unspectacular, play in net as the go-to goaltender. He managed a .915 save percentage over 64 appearances, not far from the league average of .914. Up front, the Bruins were led by Patrice Bergeron who provided 68 points (32 goals, 36 assists), Loui Eriksson with 63 points (30 goals, 33 assists), David Krejci with 63 points (17 goals, 46 assists) and Brad Marchand with 61 points (37 goals, 24 assists).

The secondary production of Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak, Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey is where the Bruins hope to see growth and opportunities for future breakouts, as their top performers cannot be asked to deliver much more than they did in 2015-2016. What was a promising season through 70 games for the B’s turned into a nightmare with the finishing collapse. Chara and the rest of the top contributors for the B’s must hope this season starts much better than the previous one finished.

What They Did in the Offseason

NHL: Preseason-Montreal Canadiens at Boston Bruins Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

They stole Riley Nash!!! While this may not have been the splashiest of moves by the Bruins, it is definitely of interest to Canes fans.

Notable Players in:

  • David Backes
  • Anton Khudobin
  • Riley Nash
  • Dominic Moore
  • Christian Ehrhoff (currently on PTO)

Notable Players out:

  • Lee Stempniak
  • Loui Eriksson
  • Jonas Gustavsson
  • Brett Connolly
  • Dennis Seidenberg
  • Landon Ferraro

Even with the acquisition of 32 year-old David Backes at $6 million per season over five years, the minimum the Bruins need offensively is to replace the departed Loui Eriksson’s contribution, and Backes’ 21 goals and total of 45 points are simply not going to be enough to do that. Although he did not provide all of his scoring in Boston (he started the year with the Devils), Lee Stempniak, the Hurricanes’ biggest free agent acquisition will be missed in Boston. Stempniak is the type of 40-point secondary scorer that the Bruins may sorely miss this season. The Bruins got older, lost more scoring touch than they added, and must continue to dig deeper in their minor league system, which is fairly well thought of, to unearth the talent they’ll need to be successful.

Why You Should Root Against Them

Well, have you ever watched a Bruins game done by their team’s broadcasters? It is a hard watch. Jack Edwards (who was tremendously enjoyable at ESPN) may be the biggest homer in all of professional sports broadcasting. I encourage you to google “Jack Edwards diving” and then come back. I’ll wait.

You see it? CRAZY huh!? I thought he might climb down from the booth, pull the skate off Roman Hamrlik’s leg, and cut open his head with it! You don’t get that type of pure disdain and disgust from John Forslund or Tripp Tracy. Sorry fellas, but for this team only an announcer willing to commit SEVERAL violent acts in the name of victory will do! In general, there is no real reason to hate this team, but the air of superiority that exudes from an “Original Six” franchise such as the Bruins can certainly lead to a person disliking this team.

But they did have this guy, who’s pretty hard to hate:

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins - Game Five Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images