Despite long-term injuries to key players and a new head coach installing a new system, the Boston Bruins did the unexpected: They improved by 18 points over the 06-07 season, and took a very good Montreal club to seven games in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The question going into the 08-09 campaign is: What will it take to get Claude Julien nominated for the Jack Adams Award?
Last season, the Bruins qualified for the postseason for the first time in four years, finishing just +.5 above the PQC. The club made their journey to the postseason as exciting as possible, finishing 8th in the conference – a mere two points ahead of Carolina. They did this in spite of:
- Losing top Center Patrice Bergeron to a severe concussion just ten games into the season
- Losing Goalie Manny Fernandez (knee) for all but four games
- Having the 28th-ranked Penalty Kill in the league (78.6%)
- Having just two 20+ goal scorers – Kobasew (22) and Sturm (27)
- Being the only playoff qualifier in either conference with a negative goal differential (-9)
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously said, “…you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want.” Clearly, Coach Julien took those words to heart last season, and to good effect. Without Bergeron to drive the offense, the Bruins scored by committee (9 players with 11+ goals), and played a defensive style best described as python-esque (and not in the comedic sense). They compiled a record of 30-7-5 when scoring first, and an amazing 31-0-4 when leading after two periods. Interestingly, the Bruins seemed indifferent to their surroundings, compiling 46 points at home and 48 on the road. Another way to view it would be to say that the B’s were the model of consistency.
Last season saw Boston make the playoffs despite multiple challenges. In 08-09, with a healthy Patrice Bergeron, a rejuvenated Michael Ryder, and emerging talents Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic, look for the Bruins to improve upon their 8th place finish and (perhaps) venture beyond the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Some statistics of note for the first month of the season:
- Post-lockout, they have a combined record of 14-14-4 in OCTOBER
- They have lost the last three season openers
- Boston plays 8 of their 11 OCTOBER games on the road, including the first four. An early-season road trip is not necessarily a bad thing, as it can be a great opportunity to build team chemistry.
Can the Bruins stay healthy and build on the success of last season? Will they start the year strong and play above the PQC all season, or will they play right along the curve and just sneak into the playoffs again? Will Milan Lucic emerge as the Second Coming of Cam Neely? Stay tuned to The OGA Blogs to find out, and check out the Bruins’ G10R to learn when they’re In or Out. With OGA, you WILL be the first to know.
Coming tomorrow: The Chicago Blackhawks’ SPR. Until then, Big Tex says, “Try the corny dogs.”
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