The Bruins should not be considered a lock to win the Atlantic Division this year
Guest post by Jesse Guance of PatriotsLife
The puck drops tonight on the 2014-2015 NHL regular season,
and the first nationally televised game will feature the hometown Bruins
against the Philadelphia Flyers.
As has been the case over the last six or seven years, there
is a lot of hype surrounding the Bruins, and rightfully so. They still boast a
deep core, one of the top defensemen and goaltenders in the game, along with
probably the most underrated player in the league in Patrice Bergeron.
Over the last couple of seasons, the Bruins have been a lock
to win the Northeast/Atlantic Division, which they’ve done more than once. Many
media members and fans alike are picking them to win the division again this
year, with some even saying that they should run away with it.
Right now, I’m not so sure.
I am in no way saying the Bruins aren’t going to be a good
team and that they aren’t going to win the division. They may have a few more
AHLers on their opening night roster than I would like to see, but at the end
of the day, not one person is denying that this is going to be a good team. I
do think when it’s all said and done they will win the division, it just won’t
be a cakewalk at all.
We know what they’ve lost so we don’t need to revisit that. While
the Bruins didn’t do much to improve the team, the Canadiens and the Lightning
The Canadiens added some goal scoring P.A. Parenteau and
some toughness in Manny Malhotra. As is usually the case, Montreal is the
biggest threat to the Bruins this year. Players such as Dale Weise and Mike
Weaver, who gave the B’s fits in the playoffs last year and they’re back, too.
Do I even need to mention P.K. Subban, Tomas Plekanec and
the rest of the top-tier players on that team?
Not enough people are looking at the Canadiens as a serious
threat, but they are. They are more than capable of challenging the Bruins for
the division, and if you keep overlooking them, you’re going to regret it. That
being said, however, one of the reasons the Bruins lost in the playoffs to the
Habs last year was because they had to rely on the likes of Kevan Miller, Matt
Fraser and others. Those are players who likely wouldn’t have been playing in
that series had Dennis Seidenberg, Chris Kelly and Adam McQuaid were healthy.
But what happened, happened.
The Lightning are also going to be a threat and can
challenge the Bruins. They’re solid from top to bottom and they’ll get Steven
Stamkos back from injury, will have Ryan Callahan for a full season and have
added solid skaters such as Brian Boyle and Brenden Morrow.
My only concern for the Lightning is if Ben Bishop can
repeat what he did last year, his first full season in the league. How often
have we seen goalies have one really good year and then fall off the face of
the Earth (Andrew Raycroft, anyone?)? If Bishop can continue his strong play,
the Lightning will be a big time threat to the Bruins.
If this team was exactly the same as last year, I wouldn’t
be nearly as worried. But they’ve lost some big time goal scoring and
leadership, and they still have some roster questions.
Who from Providence will stick on for the full year? Will it
be Matt Fraser? Ryan Spooner? Can they be counted on for a full year? Will the
defense take a step back because it lost Johnny Boychuk, or will Dougie
Hamilton have enough of a breakout to overcome the loss? Will Simon Gagne end
up having a role and if he does, how long can he keep it up?
The biggest question, of course, is can they maintain good
health throughout the season, but that’s a question for every team.
Again, at the end of the day, I think the Bruins can, and
likely will win the Atlantic Division. I also think it is very possible they
make it to the Stanley Cup Final and win it. But don’t pencil them in to do any
of that just yet, because the Canadiens and the Lightning are breathing down