COMMENTARY | To start the 2013 season, the Boston Bruins had a huge advantage with many players playing overseas who would be in midseason form to start the shortened year.
It came as no surprise when their record in the first two months of the season was 13-2-2, and Tuukka Rask proving that he could, in fact, handle the job as a No. 1 goalie. The second half of the season proved to be more difficult for the Bruins and they would finish out the final two months 15-12-4, while grabbing the fourth spot in the playoffs.
With the struggles Boston faced the second part of the season, there are a few things it must work on heading into round one of the playoffs against the Toronto Maple Leafs. With all that being said, here are the top 5 reasons Boston will get past the Maple Leafs and move on to round two:
1. Tuukka Rask continuing to prove he can produce in the big games
During the 2009-10 postseason, Rask played every game for the Bruins and despite being knocked out in the second round, he proved that he could step up to the plate when needed. Now, a few seasons later, Rask has gained even more experience, including seeing firsthand what it takes to win a Stanley Cup by backing up Tim Thomas in 2010-11. If Rask can keep his temper under control and just play the game he needs to play, the Bruins will have no struggles in net.
2. Power forwards producing as they need to
Two of the big contributors for the Bruins when they are on top of their game are Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic. It has been a struggle for both of them this season, Horton with injuries and Lucic just not being able to find his game.
Over the last few games of the season, Lucic stepped his game up and got back to the physical play that he is known for and leads to him producing on the scoresheet. Horton is still day-to-day with a suspected hand injury and is questionable for the start of the series, but, once he does get back in the lineup, he will need to find the previous form that had such chemistry with Lucic and David Krejci on the top line.
With those two power forwards proving again that they can be the major contributors they have been in the past, it will be tough for Toronto to defend that.
3. Defense stepping up on the backend
The core of the Bruins' defense has stayed the same over the past couple of seasons, and that continued this year. The difference this season has been the sixth spot being filled by either Dougie Hamilton, or, as of late, deadline pickup Wade Redden. There have been a couple of lapses in the defensive play this season that will need to be cleaned up in order to stop the Maple Leafs' big performers of Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel and Nazem Kadri.
Redden has been a solid spot on the blue line over the last part of the season and brings extensive postseason experience to the rest of the defense. While Hamilton started out the season as that sixth D-man, it is likely that he will lose out to Redden for the start of the playoffs. With the amount of experience that the Bruins will have on the blue line, there should be no problems being the shutdown defense they need to be.
4. Top performers keep performing
The line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin is considered the second line most games, but they continue to be the top producers for the Bruins. It took Seguin a little time to get the scoring started, but he ended the season second on the team in goals just behind Marchand. The three were split up a couple times during a slump but were back together again to finish out the season. The line has proved time and time again to have chemistry and to be major contributors on the scoresheet -- and this is just what they will need to continue in the first round of the playoffs.
5. Use the postseason experience they have
Just two seasons ago, the Bruins were the team raising the Stanley Cup at the end of the year. They have not had any major changes to their lineup aside from adding key players like Jaromir Jagr or Wade Redden, who have years of experience and will help the younger players on the team. Having all that experience going against a team in the Maple Leafs, who have not made the playoffs since 2004, will only benefit the Bruins
It's an Original Six matchup that many are looking forward to and will be entertaining on many levels with the skill on both teams. While I do expect Toronto to put up a fight, I see the Bruins taking the series in six games.
Melissa Fiore is a Boston native who has covered the Boston Bruins for GetRealHockey.com as well as being a contributing writer at BabesDigBalls.com. You can find Melissa on Twitter @melfior829.
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