2010-2011 NHL season preview: Boston Bruins

GYI0060279309-zdenochara-elsa-getty.jpgLast season: (39-30-13, 91 points, 3rd place in Northeast Division, 6th in Eastern Conference) After manhandling Buffalo in the first round and getting out to a 3-0 series lead against the Flyers in the second round, Boston folded up shop and lost in seven games. What turned into a feel-good season after some early struggles became the ultimate kick in the groin.

Head coach: Claude Julien returns for his fourth season. He’s pretty well established the brand of hockey he wants played in Boston with a defensive-minded, counter-attack style that doubles to also bully opponents around the ice. The Bruins have done well with Julien in charge, making the playoffs in each season he’s been there, so if you’re looking for a ‘hot seat’ candidate, look away from Boston.

Key departures: D Dennis Wideman, F Miroslav Satan, F Vladimir Sobotka, F Steve Begin. Forward depth takes a bit of a hit while losing Wideman might hurt their production on the back line.

Key arrivals: F Nathan Horton, F Tyler Seguin, F Gregory Campbell. Horton and Campbell come over in the trade with Florida that sent Wideman there. Horton should provide power forward goal scoring while Campbell will work as a grinder/Colin Campbell’s Wheel of Justice repellent. Campbell recuses himself from making punishment decisions on any games involving his son Gregory’s team.

Under pressure: Patrice Bergeron. Lots of players to pick from on the Bruins roster, but Bergeron is the most experienced of the bunch and with Savard out for an undetermined amount of time, the pressure is on Bergeron to step up his game in a big way. While his role of late has been to play as a hybrid checking center, getting a few more goals from the former team leader in points would help soften the blow of losing Savard in a big way. While No. 2 overall pick Seguin will have his own brand of pressure, the heat is on Bergeron to hold it all together.

Protecting the house: Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas will again get together to establish a formidable duo in net, only this time around Rask figures to shoulder most of the load. Provided Rask can avoid the Blaine Lacher/Andrew Raycroft second-year letdown, the Bruins figure to be tough to score on once again. Thomas has spent the offseason getting in shape and rehabbing from labrum surgery on his hip. If he bounces back in a big way, the Bruins’ potential two-headed monster in goal will be nasty.

Outside of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, the blue liners have some question marks around them. Johnny Boychuk had a breakout season and if he can continue to be tough, that will help. Matt Hunwick, Mark Stuart and Andrew Ference will all have to be more consistent. Hunwick will potentially see his workload increase with Wideman gone.

Top line we’d like to see: Milan Lucic-Seguin-Horton. Letting the new kid in town run with a couple of bruisers, one who can finish well in Horton and the other who’s good about clearing room all over the ice, might prove to be the best thing for the 18 year-old Seguin. This line would also prove to be ridiculously young with Horton checking in as the old man at age 25. As it is, we’ll have to settle for the projected line of Seguin with Bergeron and ageless wonder Mark Recchi. Past, present, and future working together. Get on that one marketing department.

Oh captain, my captain: Chara once again wears the ‘C’ and who better to do it than the 6-foot-9 physical force? Chara’s done well as the go-to guy for rallies in Boston, but you have to wonder if perhaps he’s gotten a bit more negative attention after the Bruins choke job in the playoffs.

shawnthornton1.jpgStreet fighting man: While they’re trying out Brian McGrattan as a potential enforcer, the man that does most of the talking with his fists is Shawn Thornton. Being one of the most quotable guys in Boston helps make him even more of a fan favorite. With the Bruins’ team heart being called into question repeatedly last season, perhaps standing up for each other a bit more would put a lot of this to rest.

Best-case scenario: Injuries to Marc Savard and Marco Sturm don’t keep the Bruins down. Seguin steps into an NHL job seamlessly from junior hockey. Horton becomes a 40-goal scorer. Rask becomes the second-coming of Gerry Cheevers sending the Bruins into the Stanley Cup finals.

Worst-case scenario: Savard struggles all year long with concussion problems and can’t step back in as the team’s No. 1 center. Bergeron and David Krejci don’t make the ‘jump’ offensively to fill those needs. Seguin plays like an 18-year-old kid while Horton plays more like Lucic, meaning he plays physically but doesn’t punch in the goals they’re looking for out of him. If everything breaks poorly like that, the Bruins would again be fighting to get into the playoffs. Thankfully in the Eastern Conference, things are a bit more wide open.

Keeping it real: The Bruins can easily win their division and be a top-three seed as the rest of their division mates have much bigger questions marks. If the offense can get more consistent and the goaltending stays as good as it has been the last couple years, the Bruins figure to be a difficult and dangerous team to deal with.

Stanley Cup chances: On a scale from 1-5 with one being the worst and five being the best, the Bruins are a solid 4.

(Photo: Elsa – Getty Images)

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    The verdict is in: Dubinsky gets one game for cross-checking Crosby


    Brandon Dubinsky has been suspended one game for his cross-check to the back of Sidney Crosby‘s neck.

    The incident took place during the second period of Friday’s game.

    Crosby did head to the locker room after the play, but he was able to return.

    When deciding on the number of games to give Dubinsky, here’s what the NHL took into account:

    1. Dubinsky delivered a clear cross-check.
    2. Dubinsky has been fined before, but never suspended.
    3. Crosby wasn’t seriously injured on the play.

    “In this case, while Dubinsky’s cross-check isn’t overly violent or forceful, it is an intentional strike to an opponent’s head using his stick,” the NHL said in their explanation of the play. “This is not a case where the head contact was caused by a sudden movement by Crosby or by a stick riding up a player’s back or shoulders and making subsequent contact with the head.”

    Click on the video at the top of the page to watch the NHL’s full explanation.

    The Blue Jackets take on the Blues in St. Louis tonight.

    Ready to Roll: Oilers activate Schultz from IR, send down Reinhart

    Justin Schultz
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    The Edmonton Oilers activated defenseman Justin Schultz off injured reserve and assigned Griffin Reinhart to the minors.

    Schultz has missed the last 14 games because of a back injury, but he’ll suit up in Saturday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    The 25-year-old has one assist and a minus-6 rating in nine games in ’15-16.

    Here’s his interview with Oilers TV from earlier today:

    Reinhart was acquired in an off-season trade with the New York Islanders this summer.

    The former fourth overall pick has no points and a minus-1 rating in 12 games with the Oilers.

    The Leafs will be without Reimer on Saturday

    James Reimer
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    James Reimer (lower body) won’t be available to play in Saturday’s game against Washington.

    Reimer was injured during a team practice earlier this week and although the injury didn’t appear to be serious, it will prevent him from suiting up in at least one game.

    The Leafs originally thought that the 27-year-old would be good to go for this tilt, but head coach Mike Babcock said Reimer didn’t feel good enough to play.

    Reimer’s emerged as the go-to-guy for the Maple Leafs this season and for good reason.

    He has 7-3-4 record with a 2.07 goals-against-average and a .934 save percentage in 15 games.

    Another reason the Leafs have been counting on him so much is because Jonathan Bernier‘s been awful.

    Bernier will get another opportunity to prove himself on Saturday night, but he faces a stiff test against Alex Ovechkin and company.

    The 27-year-old has an 0-7-1 record with a 3.17 goals-against-average and a .895 save percentage in ’15-16.

    In a corresponding move, the Leafs sent defenseman Scott Harrington to the minors and recalled goalie Garret Sparks.

    Sparks was Toronto’s seventh round pick in 2011.

    The 22-year-old has an 8-2-1 record with the Toronto Marlies this season.

    War of words continues between Rangers and Bruins on Saturday


    The Rangers are getting ready for their second straight matinee game on Saturday, but head coach Alain Vigneault wasn’t done addressing yesterday’s loss to the Bruins.

    After Friday’s game, Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn’t pleased with Henrik Lundqvist‘s “acting” that led to a goalie interference penalty being called on forward Brad Marchand (above) and he let everyone know it in his postgame press conference.

    On Saturday, it was Alain Vigneault’s turn to lash out.

    “Well, (the Rangers public relations staff) filled me in a little bit on what was said after the game,” Vigneault said via the New York Daily News. “I mean it’s a little disappointing. Obviously everybody saw the knee to the head. The comments on Hank were very inappropriate. The way Hank conducts himself, on the ice, away from the rink, off the ice, the example that he sets. Who would you rather have as a son, Henrik Lundqvist or Brad Marchand? For him to say things like that about Hank, totally wrong, and probably Claude is getting a little older and needs to check his eyesight.”

    The Rangers will take on the Flyers at 1:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.