Champs or Bust: 2014 Bruins
The Boston Bruins, or at least the fans, or well me, came into this season still sour after coming just mere seconds away from forcing a Game 7 to decide the Stanley Cup Champion. One of the most hectic and dismal endings I have ever seen in a game was that on the night on Game 6. I try to block it out of my memory, but the heartbroken flashes still creep in time and again. Even though the Bruins were so close to winning it all, they still made a great and entertaining run that included one of the best comebacks I had ever seen versus Toronto in Round One. Even though the Bruins didn’t win the Cup, they still set the standard of hockey that was going to be played in Boston. Since 2007 the Bruins have been progressively getting better by the year. Yes, I know they topped out and won the Cup in 2011, but the team keeps progressing. Claude Julien and Peter Chiarelli have built the Bruins up into a physical defensive system which maintains constant success. As the young players mature and become leaders the Bruins play as gotten even better with it.
That’s where 2014 comes into play. After an off-season where the Bruins handed Tuukka Rask a huge contract and shipped out former top pick Tyler Seguin for All-Star Loui Eriksson and prospect Reilly Smith, the Bruins also brought in a familiar foe from the 2013 trade deadline: Jarome Iginla. We all know the BS debacle he caused by changing his mind at the deadline and deciding to go to Pittsburgh. But, nevertheless Iginla came to Boston, tail between his legs after Boston handed to Pittsburgh’s ass in the Conference Finals just a month before. So the Bruins team that made its way to Game 6 of the Finals had improved. Imagine that. This team that has had so much success over the last five years has gotten even better.
The season opener should have been a sign. That day Jarome Iginla looked like a Bruin and it was only day one. Day one of his Bruins tenure and Iginla fit right in already getting into a fight. The tone was set with Iggy from that day forth in my opinion. The Bruins continued to play their style hockey and grind out wins. Only this season, the offense looked to be clicking easier than normal too. As Loui Eriksson struggled with some concussion issues, Reilly Smith took his spot on the second line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and became the delightful surprise of the season. Smith struggled down the stretch but overall his 51 point season was a huge plus, especially if we are counting up the Seguin trade. A little more than a quarter of the way through the B’s lost veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to an ACL injury. With Seidenberg done and injuries to Boychuk and McQuaid, the Bruins would go through periods where the defense was lacking at times due to some very young defenseman in Krug, Hamilton, Miller and Bartkowski. But all in all it was enough to win a lot of games and the young guys gained great experience which will be needed come playoff time.
After the Olympic break, we saw the Bruins go on a run that captivated the fan base. From March 2nd to March 24th, the Bruins would not lose a game, winning twelve in a row. During that streak, Iggy seemed to put everything he touched into the net and Bergeron was hot as well. The Bruins coasted the rest of season finishing 54-19-9 with 117 points and claiming the President’s Trophy for best team in the NHL during the 2013-14 season.
That reason is why this Bruins team is the best ever. Ever. Tuukka Rask is the odds on favorite to win the Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goalie. Patrice Bergeron had the best season of his career, if that’s even possible, scoring 30 goals and racking up a total of 62 points. Jarome Iginla’s presence on the team as a Hall-of-Famer was evident as he had a 30 goal/60 point season as well. He also had an effect on fellow line-mates Milan Lucic and David Krejci who both had the most productive and consistent seasons of their careers. The surprises of the season were Reilly Smith, who mentioned above, had a 50 point season along with the much anticipated play from Carl Soderberg who added 48 points. The famous 4th line for the B’s (Thornton, Paille, and Campbell) also had a great season being consistent contributors as enforcers and scorers. So, what’s that? About six Bruins players had career seasons and the other did what a HOFer normally does. That is why the Bruins easily earned the 1st seed in the East and had their best season ever.
This team, believe it or not, is better than last year’s squad or even the 2011 Championship team. The mix of youth and veteran leadership is just right, while everyone together runs like a well-oiled machine taking care of business. After such a great season, the expectations on this team have never been higher. If they don’t reach the Cup Finals, many will consider this season a bust, and they are right. This is the best Bruins team that has ever hit the ice and they have the best shot at bringing home another Cup for Boston. It’s time to gear up and get ready for the rollercoaster that is the NHL playoffs, because the Bruins are ready to make a run. This time, they’re not settling for second. Their eye is on the Cup. It is champions or bust for this 2014 Bruins team, because it’s the Cup. So, sit back and get ready for the fun. GO BRUINS!