BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08: Boston Bruins fans wave a giant Bruins flag prior to the start of Game Four between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 8, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
When asked to describe their team in three words, most Boston fans replied "Big Bad Bruins". It's hard to argue with that assessment. The Bruins have a reputation for being one on of the grittiest and most physical teams in the league. However, lost in that reputation is the tremedous skill that their players possess, especailly the forwards and
goalies goalie. This mix of sneaky and often overlooked offense from all of their forward lines and hard-hitting play is what propelled them to the top of the NHL in 2011.
The B's had an interesting 2011-12 season. To say they started slow would be an understatement. The Stanley Cup Hangover seemed to be in full-effect for the first month as the Bruins went 3-7-0 in October. However, nothing snaps you out of a funk like a 10 game winning streak, separated from a another 4 game streak by one 3-2 shootout loss to the Red Wings in late November. Things evened out a little more as the season progressed, but the team still managed to finish first in the Northeast division for the 3rd time in 4 years. After a hard fought first round, Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals ended the B's attempt at a back-to-back, and the team from Boston entered the offseason much sooner than many had predicted.
Even though the Bruins goalies tend to be the most talked about, almost unanimously fans cited center as their deepest position. Between David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron (this year's Selke winner), Rich Peverly, Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly (who scored 20 goals last year), they have quite a crop - and that's without the still-concussed Marc Savard. However, they're not nearly as confident about their blueline depth. Beyond Chara, I guess there's not a whole lot there.
Here is their projected line-up for next season:
The Hamilton they're referring to on their blueline is top prospect Dougie Hamilton, who was selected #9 overall in 2011 (and seemed pretty okay with joining Boston's organization). That pick originally belonged to the Maple Leafs, making Hamilton one of three first-round Toronto picks that have found their way to the Bruins either before or after the draft (Seguin and Rask are the others). Another prospect they're excited about is Alexander Khokhlachev, a center, who was their second round pick in '11. One poster was even so excited about the fact that their names become "Alexander Hamilton" when put together that he posted this gem of an image, which I found very fitting. Jared Knight, a right wing for the London Knights who scored at a point-per-game rate this year, was cited often as well. Center Ryan Spooner and goalie Anton Khudobin were also mentioned.
Even beyond their drafting, none of the fans had any issues with the management or coaches. Also, judging by this picture, they still think their GM is a pretty swell guy (my wording, not theirs) for accomplishing their "Five Year Plan", which is what they call their rebuild once the Cup came to pass.
I was curious, so I asked them about how they built their team. In 2005-06, the Bruins finished dead last in the NE division with 74 points. Peter Chiarelli was hired on May 26th, 2006 and started to turn things around. First order of business - signing the 6'-9" Zdeno Chara via free-agency that July. Over the next few years, the hockey gods blessed them with unexpectedly good goaltending in Thomas, and they had Krejci, Lucic, and Marchand come out of their prospect pool. The team started to come together, and between '07 and '09, they found a way to jump from last in their division to first, a 40 point difference. They stumbled a bit in '10, but signed Horton and conned Burke out of Seguin in the process. Bergeron found his game again in '11, and BOOM! Stanley Cup. Afterwards, Chiarelli said, "Everyone has a five-year plan, and so did we. It's not like it fell exactly into place, but we were adding certain elements to get to this point. And it happened, so I'm a genius."
Basically, they found their defensive and goalie cornerstones first, then built up their forward ranks mostly from within with an emphasis on centermen. Their GM wasn't afraid to make fairly bold moves though - such as the Kessel deal - to shape the team. High-scoring snipers were the finishing touches, however, the team did manage to score 116 points two years before they showed up. The Avs are probably around Boston's year 2 right now, when they scored 94 points and finished 3rd in the division, but considering how the 116pt season was year 3, there's quite a bit of hope left for us yet if we follow in their footsteps.
For good or bad, you also can't talk about the Bruins without bringing up Tim Thomas. He was their hero during the 2011 run, rocking a .940 Sv% and 1.98 GAA during the playoffs. He won both the Conn Smythe and Vezina trophies that year and was instrumental to bringing the Cup back to Boston after 39 years. However, things got.... complicated... this season. He declined an invitation to the White House in late January, causing a media firestorm. Just when things were starting to settle down, he then announced that he plans to take a year off from hockey even though his $5 mil a year contract doesn't expire until next summer.
By making his announcement, Tim Thomas placed himself above the team, and it's pretty clear that hasn't set well with the fans. Most of those that responded were angered and disappointed by the announcement, but they've come to terms with it, saying that they don't want him back if his head's not in it. They're grateful to him for bringing them the Cup, but the majority of them think that way he left was in very poor taste and that he just should have retired instead of this "year off" nonsense. Quite a few of them still hope he retires a Bruin, some just want that $5 mil in cap space back, and one poster wants him traded ASAP, but as a whole, they seem to have grown very tired of all the drama he created throughout the year.
However, Thomas leaving isn't going to critically hurt the team. Tuukka Rask is considered one of the best young goalies in the league, and seems ready to take over the starting role. The 25-year-old has played in 102 NHL games and has a 2.20 GAA and .926 Sv% during that time. For comparison, Varly is 24 and has 112 GP, .915 Sv% and 2.48 GAA. Rask even played 45 games during the 2009-10 season while posting the best numbers of his career, so he should be able to adjust to the workload.
Beyond the goalies, the fans cited Chara, Thorton, Lucic, Bergeron, and Seguin as the biggest fan favorites. Defenseman Adam McQuaid was very often referred to as the most underrated player on the team, although 4th liner Daniel Paille and Johnny Boychuck's shot also got some love. They also are very happy that Bergeron is FINALLY getting his due from the rest of the NHL. On the other side, they said that Marchand and Lucic annoy them when they go over the top and cross the line and one poster found Ference "to be a hipster d-bag".
As for non-Avs that they'd like on their team, Steven Stamkos was the most picked. Why? First of all, as Birda put it, "Because he's Steven Fucking STAMKOS". However, for Bruins fans, it's more than that. Remember how I said that they felt Boychuck's shot was underrated? Well, during the second round of the playoffs in 2011, one of Boychuck's rockets caught Stamkos in the nose. He left bleeding, but a few minutes later, Stammer was back, wearing a full cage with a nasty wound on his face. He finished the game, which earned him some serious respect from the Bruins faithful.
The Habs and the Nucks were the two most disliked teams, which probably isn't a surprise. They're also not too fond of Buffalo, Phoenix, or Washington right now, and Ott, Avery, Subban, Pacioretty, Lapierre, Burrows, Hartnell and Miller also aren't on their good sides. Downie, Giguere, and the "goon" Hunwick (he concussed Savard for the second time in 10 months and possibly ended his career) also got hate votes.
As far as the Avs they would like, Landeskog and Duchene each got three votes. O'Reilly, Johnson, and former Bruins 20-goal-scorer Kobasew each got one. Two also said that they liked Jones, but not for what the Avs just signed him for, and two said that they weren't really keen on getting any of our players.
They have lukewarm opinions towards our team too. One decribed us as "Used to be good, became kind of a laughingstock, dunno really now." Almost everyone else sees us as a pretty easy 2 points, but they do recognize our talent and think we're on a very similar trajectory to the one they followed not so long ago. However, they agreed that our players definitely need more playoff experience, and that we need to find that one player that can carry the team before we're respected as a threat. They also cautioned against big free agency signings and overpaying one player. Their team was mostly built from the draft and through trades once Chara and Thomas were in, so there is hope that Sherman will be able to MAKE IT HAPPEN without breaking Eno$'s bank.
They also mentioned that they were Avs fans when Bourque was here, although they still find it weird to see #77 above our ice. Still, they're grateful and posted this image for our enjoyment. "Kisses, Avz fans! Snowball: 1, Hell: 0"