COMMENTARY | As the Boston Bruins prepare for their sixth consecutive appearance in the Stanley Cup playoffs, this year's version of the club is perhaps the most vexing in recent memory.
The B's core group that caught fire to win it all in the 2011 playoffs had been gradually building toward something. But after following up their Stanley Cup run with a first-round exit to the Washington Capitals last year, this year's team sputters into the playoffs, finishing with just three wins in their last 10 games. For a city that had grown accustomed to low expectations for its hockey team in the recent decade, the tables have turned. Fans now expect big results in the form of a deep playoff run, especially given that most of the guys who helped bring a Cup to Boston are still here.
When a title was delivered by the likes of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin, excitement was felt around Boston -- not just for the success achieved but also for the team's immediate future. But in recent years, the top forwards on the Bruins has been starved for the cohesion that catapulted them to victory two seasons ago.
They are, no doubt, strong in net with Tuukka Rask. And the Zdeno Chara-Dennis Seidenberg defensive pairing should be reliable in the playoffs once more. But it's the lack of goals and inconsistent chemistry on the scoring lines that has plagued this team of late.
The biggest problem for the Bruins in the second half of this abbreviated season has been all the moving parts up front. From Patrice Bergeron's concussion to the acquisition of Jaromir Jagr. From Chris Kelly's leg injury to the addition of Carl Soderberg from Sweden. It's all resulted in Bruins fans having seen a lot of jumbled lineups lately. And the events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings were without question a challenging and emotional situation to play hockey through.
Now this team is at something of a mini-crossroads. Fans will remember that there was nothing particularly special about the Bruins' regular season the year they went on to hoist the Cup in Vancouver. And suffice to say, this regular season, in its shortened state, was nothing to write home about. But the NHL playoffs wipe the slate clean, as the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings showed us last year.
And if ever there was a struggling hockey club in need of pushing a reset button, this is it. Last year's disappointment can be chalked up to a Stanley Cup hangover. This year's playoffs present the Bruins an opportunity to recapture their identity.
And playing for a city in need of a lift, an opportunity to create something new.
Andy Vagos majors in Journalism at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He has lived around Boston all his life and follows the Bruins on a daily basis.
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