3. Boston Bruins
Second place in the Atlantic Division, 50-20-12
Why they can win – The Bruins enter the postseason as one of the more complete teams from top to bottom. They have a stout group of forwards led by Patrice Bergeron and including Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci and rounded out by winger Rick Nash. The Bruins paid a fairly hefty price to acquire Nash at the trade deadline. So far, it hasn’t exactly paid off as Nash hasn’t lit up the scoreboard and is currently injured. None of that will be remembered if he raises his game in the postseason is he’s able to go.
Boston finished in the top five in goals per game and goals against. Their defense is obviously good and much of that is due to the play of goalie Tuukka Rask. They’re deep, talented and were one of the best teams in the regular season. The Bruins will be a tough out this April and possibly further along than that.
Why they won’t – It’s possible the age factor catches up with Boston during the postseason. It’s a long two-month grind for any Stanley Cup champion and many of the primary contributors for the Bruins are over 30 years old. Granted, many of them aren’t old. They also don’t have a ton of fresh legs to inject life into the team. Pastrnak is one of the few who could fill that role. Ryan Donato also brings some fresh legs to the offense, and he’s been dynamite since his debut.
It’s also interesting to note the Bruins had a 14-0-4 streak during the season. Without that streak, they would likely be third in the Atlantic and expectations would be different. Truthfully, Boston is hard to pick on to find a weakness. This could be the year they get back to the finals and could win the Cup.
X Factor- Charlie McAvoy: The young defenseman is still recovering from an MCL injury. He is one of the few contributors under the age of 30 for this Bruins squad. Their defense is significantly better with him. Even if he’s in the lineup, is he healthy enough to play well? It’s something that can help swing a series one way or another.
First Round Matchup – Toronto Maple Leafs; Leafs won regular season 3-1-0
Visons of the Cup are dancing through the heads of the Bruins and their fans, but they have a tough draw in the first round. The divisional foe got the better of them in the regular season and these teams are very evenly matched. Of all the higher seeds in the East, Boston might be on the highest upset alert in the first round.
Prediction – Leafs in 7