Zdeno Chara

2011-2012 season preview: Boston Bruins

2010-11 record: 46-25-11, 103 points; 1st in Northeast, 3rd in East

Playoffs: Defeated Montreal 4-3 in Eastern quarterfinals, defeated Philadelphia 4-0 in Eastern semifinals, defeated Tampa Bay 4-3 in Eastern finals, defeated Vancouver 4-3 in Stanley Cup finals

Sure, Boston sports fans are spoiled. The Bruins became the fourth regional professional team to win a championship in just seven years, which should prohibit griping from any New England area sports fan for about four decades. (Chances are they’re already spilling clam chowder about that Boston Red Sox collapse, though.)

That being said, the Bruins likely won over quite a few observers during the championship round. To some, it was a result of Aaron Rome’s villainous hit on Nathan Horton or Alex Burrows’ finger-chewing shenanigans. More positive folks might instead emphasize the underdog-turned-superstar story of Tim Thomas or a team trying to claim the Stanley Cup for the first time since the days of Bobby Orr. Either way, the B’s managed to survive three Game 7s and Marc Savard’s absence to earn a surprising championship.

Offense

The Bruins scored 246 goals last season, good for third in the Eastern Conference. That might seem surprising since David Krejci and Milan Lucic tied for the team lead with just 62 points, but the B’s get things done with an impressive varied attack. (That will be especially true if the Lucic-Krejci-Horton line carries over their great work from the playoffs, when Krejci earned the postseason scoring title with 23 points.)

For a Cup winner, the Bruins’ offense is largely unchanged, aside from Mark Recchi’s retirement and Michael Ryder’s free agent departure. Injecting more of their own young blood could help close those gaps, though. Obviously there’s the often-hinted-upon ascent of 19-year-old Tyler Seguin, but people forget how young Krejci (25) and Patrice Bergeron (26) are as well. Maybe the Bruins’ attack lacks the sexiness of the Lightning or Penguins, but their depth could make them difficult to handle.

As far as additions, Benoit Pouliot strikes me as a poor – and older – man’s Brad Marchand to boot.

Defense

The Red Wings’ Nicklas Lidstrom won the Norris Trophy for the seventh time in June, but the decision should have come down to the other finalists: the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara and the Predators’ Shea Weber. Chara continues to be a do-everything defensive force, combining stout own-zone play and a roaring slap shot that helped him score 14 goals and 44 points last season. Dennis Seidenberg emerged in the playoffs as an ideal top pairing mate with Chara, but we’ll see if Claude Julien keeps them together during the regular season.

Despite that great top pairing and another bright spot here and there, the Bruins’ overall defense might not be as good as it seems. They allowed 32.7 shots per game last season, the second highest total in the NHL.

Tomas Kaberle was a square peg in a round hole after a trade deadline deal, so it won’t be tough for Joe Corvo to make a better impression. He’ll need to keep his turnovers down to stay out of Julien’s doghouse, though.

Goalies

The Bruins might just have the best goaltending tandem in the NHL. Tim Thomas’ 2010-11 season and playoffs might not be matched for a long, long time (Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Trophy, Vezina Trophy). If he starts to show his age (or is unable to sustain his record-breaking numbers), the team can lean on super-backup Tuukka Rask. The Finnish netminder carried the load in 2009-10 and is more than capable of keeping Thomas fresh or even stealing the job back from him.

Coach

Julien might not be fancy (and bares a striking resemblance to Bill from King of the Hill), but he gets the job done with a tight defensive style. Some will criticize him for handcuffing offensive players, but that also allows him to reduce the risks that come with those flights of fancy.

Breakout candidate

It’s a bit much to expect Seguin to have a Steven Stamkos-like second season, but he should at least inherit many of Recchi’s power-play opportunities. That alone could help their squalid man advantage and boost the sophomore’s numbers.

Best-case scenario

A relatively healthy defending championship team rides an easy early season to a cushy playoff spot, uses solid cap space to add that “missing piece” during the trade deadline and rides Thomas’ MVP bid to back-to-back championships.

Reality

Buffalo’s depth and Montreal’s favorable schedule could make it difficult for the Bruins to repeat as division champions. That being said, the Bruins are hockey’s answer to a Swiss Army knife; they can beat you up, light up the scoreboard or grind out 1-0 and 2-1 wins with equal precision. They still might not be a sexy choice for the Cup, but they absolutely deserve to be in the conversation.

Blues aim to raise money for victims of Fort McMurray fires

An evacuee puts gas in his car on his way out of Fort McMurray, Alberta, as a wildfire burns in the background Wednesday, May 4, 2016. The raging wildfire emptied Canada's main oil sands city, destroying entire neighborhoods of Fort McMurray, where officials warned Wednesday that all efforts to suppress the fire have failed.  (Jason Franson /The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Fires devastated the Canadian city of Fort McMurray, and the St. Louis Blues are doing their part to help those who were affected.

Here’s what the team is doing to raise money during Game 4 against the Dallas Stars:

Proceeds raised through the team’s 50/50 raffle and the Blues for Kids silent auction will benefit families who have been misplaced by the fires.

Blues forward Scottie Upshall shared his thoughts with the Associated Press regarding several family members being among those evacuated from the area.

“It’s been a great city, a city that’s survived for many years through some tough times and for me, growing up there doesn’t seem too long ago,” Upshall said. “Places that probably aren’t standing anymore will be really, really tough to take. But as long as everyone’s OK, that’s the main thing.”

Other people from around the hockey world weighed in on the scary scene, including Ottawa Senators defenseman Chris Phillips, who told the Ottawa Citizen that “it hurts a lot.”

People shared some scary sights from the evacuation.

Video: Beagle’s perfect shot dogs Murray for early Caps lead

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Matt Murray was just on another level in Game 3, giving the impression that the Washington Capitals would only beat him with perfect shots.

Jay Beagle got that memo … and maybe added a little element of surprise on top of that.

As you can see from the video above, Beagle beat Murray from an unexpected angle with a pretty resounding goal. It was one of those “Wait, did that just happen?”-type moments.

The Capitals saw their lead go away moments before this post was completed, so it’s now 1-1.

WATCH LIVE: Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins – Game 4

Washington Capitals T.J. Oshie (77) tries to slide the puck past Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray (30) during the third period of Game 3 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals in Pittsburgh, Monday, May 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The Pittsburgh Penguins won Game 3 thanks to Matt Murray‘s heroics, but now they must face the Washington Capitals without Kris Letang in Game 4.

(And the Penguins were overwhelmed for much of that last contest with their best blueliner.)

The Capitals, meanwhile, acknowledge the baggage – perceived or not – of the past as they try to tie this series.

It should be a fascinating Game 4, and you can soak in all the drama and action on NBCSN and also stream it via the link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

To be young: Coyotes to hire 26-year-old as GM, give Tippett more say

Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett watches his team play the Detroit Red Wings during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Detroit, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015.  (AP Photo/Jose Juarez)
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It sounds like the Arizona Coyotes’ youth movement won’t merely be seen on the ice.

ESPN’s Craig Custance reports that the Coyotes will promote 26-year-old assistant GM John Chayka to GM. The team teased a major press conference for Thursday, when that news is likely to be made official.

The presser could be useful for more than the usual quotes and mission statements, as the Coyotes seem like they may parallel the Toronto Maple Leafs in combining an experienced executive, a young up-and-coming thinker and a more empowered head coach.

Dave Tippett is expected to have more of a say in personnel decisions while the Coyotes hope to bring in a Lou Lamoriello-type to assist Chayka, according to Custance.

(Custance’s ESPN Insider article [subscription required] goes in much greater depth, including a comparison to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors rather than the Maple Leafs.)

It’s possible that Dallas Stars assistant GM Les Jackson might come in to help Chayka, although an earlier report suggests that Jackson might stay in Dallas.

Multiple reporters including Puck Daddy’s Josh Cooper back up Custance’s report.

Considering Chayka’s age – he’s primed to become the youngest GM in NHL history – it’s no surprise that people are churning out jokes.

(This post’s author comes with six more years of [life] experience and a resume stacked with impressive video game and fantasy hockey team-building, by the way.)