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    All-Centennial Team

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    Stanley Cup Champs

    Young stars must carry the 2013 Bruins

    For the upcoming shortened NHL season to end in another cup for the Bruins, this must be a breakthrough year for our young talent. Here I am primarily referring to Tyler Seguin and Tuukka Rask.  These are two guys who can be superstars in this league for years to come, and if they play to the level they are capable of consistently, they will carry the team to playoff success for years to come. However, the key word there is IF.

    Seguin’s Breakthrough Year

    At 20 years old, Tyler Seguin may not be capable of operating a washing machine, however we do know he can be a prolific goal scorer, and electrifying talent, and a formidable competitor for Gronk in the pursuit of Boston’s finest young women. But it is now time for Seguin to move to the next level- the upper echelon of young NHL talent. If Seguin continues to develop his skill set and knowledge of the game, I see no reason why Seguin can’t play on a similar level as contemporaries such as Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, and even Sidney Crosby.

     If Seguin wants to keep up with the pace of Stamkos, for example, he is going to need to put his offensive game into overdrive. Stamkos, now 22, recorded a remarkable 232 points through his first three seasons in the NHL. Through his first two seasons, Seguin is significantly behind this torrid pace, with 89 total points thus far in his career. While the shortened season will prevent Seguin from making significant progress on these actual numbers, we will see if he will continue with the steady progression he has demonstrated since entering the league, and if he does in fact belong in the same discussion with an offensive force such as Stamkos.

    Seguin did make major strides from Season 1 to 2 as a Bruin. In his rookie campaign, Seguin notched 11 goals and 11 assists in 74 games played. This past season, he showed why he was drafted number 2 overall by the Bruins, leading the team in goals and total points (29 goals, 38 assists, 67 points) in 84 games . He also showed he could step up in big situations. While he was quiet for the first five games of the series, Seguin scored critical goals in both game 6 and game 7 of a first round series loss to the Washington Capitals. His goal in game 6 was a memorable overtime game-winner. Despite these late series heroics, the Bruins demonstrated an overall ineptitude on offense throughout the seven game series. Brandon Holtby’s fantastic goaltending certainly played a major role in this, but the bottom line is the Bruins need someone who is an elite goal scorer. And Seguin is clearly the best fit for that role on this team. And that is the player he must now become.

    How much we can read into Seguin’s 25 goals in 20 games in Europe is hard to say, but it is encouraging. He has stated that the larger ice surface allowed him to hone his arsenal of offensive weapons. Hopefully, those 30 games will also have him in-shape, ready to play and ready to light the lamp this Saturday vs. the Rangers. In a 48 game season where a 5 game losing streak good be the difference between making and missing the playoffs, it will be Seguin who the Bruins lean on to put the puck in the net. Don’t count on him to run the dishwasher, but prepare for #19 to have a season to remember in 2013.

     Tuukka Time

    Tim Thomas has decided that instead of being the Bruins goalie this year, he is going to focus on “Family, Friends, and Faith.” Political bullshit and generally annoying off-ice antics aside, Thomas’ presence will be missed. Thomas’ decision to step away and consequently be suspended in a "non-adversarial way" (whatever that means) has thrust Tuukka Rask into the limelight with the high-pressure task of being the Bruins starting goaltender.

    The 25 year old Finnish net minder spent his lockout playing overseas for HC Plzeri in the Czech Republic. Like Seguin, Rask has shown flashes of brilliance during his young career. In the 2009/2010 season, Rask supplanted Thomas as the starter, and was the only goalie in the league with a goals against average less than 2.00 AND a save percentage over .930.

    After playing in a career high 45 games that season, Rask was once again relegated to the role of backup as Thomas returned to Vezina form and led the B’s to a Stanley Cup in the 2010/2011 season. That year, Rask played in 29 games, still posting impressive numbers despite decreased time in net. Last season, Tuukka appeared in 23 games before suffering a serious groin injury on March 3rd, ending his season. This gave way to the short, but painful “Marty Turco Era.”

    There is no question the talent is there with Rask, but the major concern is and always has been his durability. More concerning is the fact he is struggling with groin issue, which is not a good problem to have as a goalie. On October 24th, it was reported that Rask tweaked his groin during a game in the Czech Republic and was forced to leave early on in that contest. While the injury has proven to not be serious, it once again raised questions about whether Rask has the durability necessary to be a No. 1 goalie for a contending team in the NHL. In this sense, the shortened season may be a blessing in disguise for Rask and the Bruins.

    Should Rask find himself injured again, we will then in turn see if back-up Anton Khudobin has what it takes to be a legitimate NHL goalie. Cam Neely and other Bruin’s execs have repeatedly expressed their confidence in the abilities of Khudobin, a 26 year-Old Russian goalie who has appeared in a total of 7 NHL games (6 for the Wild between 2009 and 2011, 1 for the Bruins last season). In those games, he has posted a 5-2 record with an average save percentage of .966. Obviously, we will need a larger sample size before reaching any sort of definitive conclusion on him. Hopefully we will not have to see more than is expected from Khudobin this year, and Tuukka will prove his doubters wrong and be the Bruins goalie for the long run. Tim Thomas showed us that goaltending wins championships, and we will see if Rask can perform at a similar level. Tuukka Time is officially underway.