NHL season previews often sell you an impressive bill of goods before you realize, at the end of the season, you're holding an empty box. Which makes using advertisements and infomercials the appropriate template for Puck Daddy's 2009-10 NHL Season Previews, presented each day throughout September.
The Bruins rolled through the first half of the regular season, hit a speed bump in the midway through, but finished the season on an 8-2-0 run in their final ten games to capture the East and fall a win shy of claiming the President's Trophy.
The Bruins would find themselves in a rematch of last season's first-round series with the Montreal Canadiens and quickly dispatched them in four games. Aside from the sweep, the more interesting subplot to the series was seeing Milan Lucic's(notes) stardom shoot into the stratosphere after his dismantling of Mike Komisarek(notes). The Habs' centennial season ended in embarrassing fashion and no team was happier to help the Canadiens start their summer earlier than expected.
In the conference semifinals, Boston quickly came down from their high of sweeping Montreal after they found themselves down 3-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes in Round 2. In the midst of fighting back to force a Game 7, controversy entered into the equation when Carolina's Scott Walker(notes) punched out Aaron Ward(notes) in the final minutes of Game 5. When NHL czar of discipline Colin Campbell felt the need to let the act go unpunished, Walker came back in Game 7 and scored the series-winning goal in overtime.
Will the unexpected early exit be the inspirational theme for the 2009-10 campaign?
Latest Gadgets (Offseason Additions): Salary cap concerns forced GM Peter Chiarelli to be pretty quiet in the off-season adding only depth forward Steve Begin(notes), defenseman Derek Morris(notes) and goaltender Dany Sabourin(notes). Begin will replace fourth-liner Stephane Yelle(notes) who departed for Carolina. Morris adds to a deep Bruins blue line and Sabourin will find his way back in the NHL if rookie Tuukka Rask(notes) fails in his backup role to Tim Thomas(notes).
To The Recycle Bin (Offseason Subtractions): The decision to let Manny Fernandez(notes) and his bloated contract walk was an easy one and it allows Rask to develop at the NHL level. The loss of Shane Hnidy(notes), Steve Montador(notes) and Aaron Ward on the blue line creates a considerable drop off in talent after Boston's top six defensemen. PJ Axelsson(notes) ended his 11 year career in Boston after leaving to play with Frolunda in Sweden.
And Now, a Public Service Announcement About Hockey Fan Etiquette:
The Pitchman (Top Offensive Player): Continuing his post-lockout career resurgence, Marc Savard(notes) is entering the final year of his contract and if history serves correct, he should have yet another phenomenal year. The '08-09 season saw Savy produce his highest goals and plus/minus totals since he joined the Bruins. With Phil Kessel's(notes) status with the team unresolved and David Krejci(notes) still recovering from off-season hip surgery, Savard might have to carry the load for a while with a little help from Michael Ryder(notes), Marco Sturm(notes), and Milan Lucic.
Introducing .... (Potential Breakout Player): If you participate in a fantasy hockey league that rewards for plus/minus, then Blake Wheeler(notes) was a gem last season. Second in the NHL with a +36 rating, Wheeler is beginning to come into his own as he enters his second season in the league. His 21 goal, 45-point season was good enough to earn Wheeler a Calder Trophy nomination and playing on a line with David Krejci and the Claude Julien-inspired Michael Ryder will only feed the Boston offense even more.
Operators Are Standing By (The Defensemen): Led by defensive stalwarts and offensive weapons Zdeno Chara(notes) and Dennis Wideman(notes), the Bruins defence corps is rounded out by the solid foursome of Andrew Ference(notes), Mark Stuart(notes), Matt Hunwick(notes), and newly acquired Derek Morris. Not a name brand defense outside of the top pairing, but a group that helped lead the league in least goals allowed a season ago.
The Spokesmodel (The Goalies): The defending Vezina Trophy winner, Tim Thomas will be the reason the Bruins succeed or fail this season. His end-of-the-year recognition made Thomas one of the feel-good stories around the NHL. Can Thomas follow up a career season with yet another one?
Rask finally gets an opportunity to make an impression in the big leagues and since he's backing up a 35-year old in Thomas, he should get plenty of chances to prove his worth at the NHL level.
The Inventor (The Coach): There's a reason why Claude Julien won the Jack Adams Trophy last year. He put the message in the head's of his players that if you want ice time, you'll need to be a responsible two-way player. Julien's message was loud and clear and the Bruins led the NHL in plus/minus with a +60 rating far away from the second place Chicago Blackhawks who finished at +45.
Julien's is also the only coach who can get the most out of Michael Ryder, who's succeeded everywhere that last season's coach of the year has been behind the bench.
And Now, a Short Message From Milan Lucic:
"For the first time in years, the Bruins are considered legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference. One big question mark still remains for the B's, but regardless of how things turn out with #81 they are still returning a solid nucleus from a team that finished first in the East last season."
"Much is expected of hockey teams with great potential, and all of the pieces are again in place for the Boston Bruins to romp through an improved Eastern Conference while threatening for the President's Trophy. There should be plenty of impact play from young rising stars like David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Matt Hunwick, and the B's should again reap All-Star level performances from an in-their-prime troika of Tim Thomas, Marc Savard and Zdeno Chara. The Big Bad Bears won't sneak up on anybody this time around, however, and all that matters is what they do once the real "tournament" begins next spring."
"The Bruins are coming off a surprising first place finish in the Eastern Conference. They took advantage of teams underestimating them and fed off the amazing goaltending of Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas while following a full-proof system put in place by Jack Adams Award winner Claude Julien. Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara became the stalwart that the Bruins envisioned when they signed him to a five-year, $37.5-million deal.
"Now the question is, with every team more prepared for them and many Eastern Conference teams improving, the challenge will be greater for this team to succeed and take the next step.
"Regardless of how the situation with unsigned restricted free agent Phil Kessel turns out the Bruins should still be considered a favorite in the Eastern Conference but the question will be how much did they learn from last season's playoff run and can they apply those lessons to advance further this spring?
"Prediction: 2nd Eastern Conference, 1st Northeast Division"
Don Draper says...
"Gentlemen, Boston isn't just a hockey team; it's a bunch of rag-tag farmers standing up against the greatest fighting force in the world; it's the glory mine eyes have seen through generations of harsh winters and harsher truths in chasing the American dream; it's ... uh-oh ..."
"Excuse me, but who are you and what are you doing in my office?"
"... Jack Edwards, Mr. Draper, play-by-play announcer on NESN. I was just telling the boys here how the Bruins are like rag-tag farmers and how mine eyes have ... "
"Put the scotch down and get out."
2009-10 Preseason Report Card:
Forwards: A- (Second best in goals scored)
Special Teams: B+
Management: B+ (Currently over the cap and Kessel situation still unresolved)
Results May Vary (Biggest Issue Facing the Team): How much of an effect will the Olympics have on Tim Thomas? We saw Dominik Hasek(notes) get hurt and miss the rest of the '05-06 season for Ottawa, and Henrik Lundqvist(notes) feel the effects of a deep medal-round run in Torino. If Thomas wins the goalie battle between him and Ryan Miller(notes) for Team USA, could the short-tournament format of the Olympics be a factor on the 36-year-old's body?
Warranty Expires (Prediction): First in the Northeast Division and one of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins enter the '09-10 season with a feeling of unfinished business. Winning the Eastern Conference regular season title wasn't enough and the lineup remains mostly unchanged (barring how the Kessel situation ends up). Everything is in place for Boston to once again finish atop the East yet again if Tim Thomas can replicate his success from last season.
Which would be a reason to gloat.