Puck Daddy - NHL

Colorful characters, revered championships, staged fights ... the rink shares plenty with the squared circle. So here at Puck Daddy, we've decided to preview the 2010-11 NHL season with the help of old-school wrestling icons, images and lingo. It's a slobber-knocker, Mean Gene ... 

Last Season (39-30-13; 91 points. 3rd in Northeast, 6th in the Conference)

In was the bad, the good and the ugly for the Bruins in 2009-10.

The bad: After finishing at the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference the previous year, the Bruins played wildly inconsistent hockey. They were fifth in the conference by the time the Fenway Winter Classic arrived; after that game, they went into a paralyzing 2-10-4 streak that jeopardized their playoff chances. On March 7, they lost center Marc Savard(notes) to a concussion via Matt Cooke's(notes) injurious blindside hit. That injury, and others to Milan Lucic(notes) and several defenseman, forced the Bruins to play until April 11 before clinching a playoff berth.

The good: Once in the playoffs, the Bruins upset the Buffalo Sabres in six games and then took a 3-0 lead on the Philadelphia Flyers, including a Game 1 victory that saw Savard return to score the game-winning goal in overtime.

The ugly:

In the summer, the Bruins made a big trade, used Brian Burke's pick to take the No. 2-rated rookie in the 2010 Draft and started preparing for what could be this group's (and this coach's) last great chance at a Stanley Cup.

New Additions

Pundits have been waiting years for Nathan Horton(notes) to find a way out of Florida and reach the potential his No. 3 overall pick in 2003 promised. The Bruins acquired him for the 15th pick in the 2010 draft, a third-rounder in 2011 and defenseman Dennis Wideman(notes). He'll be slotted on a line with Milan Lucic and Marc Savard to begin camp, and at 25 could have a career year with the B's.

Forward Gregory Campbell(notes) also came over in the trade, ensuring that any NHL supplemental discipline issues involving the Bruins won't involve his father Colin.

The other key addition is forward Tyler Seguin(notes), the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 Draft and a player that could be the starting left winger on the Bruins' second line.

Seen by some as more "NHL ready" than his rookie rival Taylor Hall(notes), Seguin is perhaps best known for his strategy for attempting to hook up with Lauren Conrad from "The Hills" while in Los Angeles for the Draft: "I'm just waiting for her to step through my hotel door and say, 'Hello.'"

Key Subtractions

One good indication that Dennis Wideman needed a change of scenery, after going from a plus-32 to a minus-14? Things like this were being written about him:

"He found it too tough to be a hockey player in Boston, where his apparent lack of the passionate work ethic essential to the success of any high-risk, high-reward defensemen in the NHL became too punitive for the Bruins to stay the course."

Yowch.

There may have been more departures during the summer, but everyone the Bruins wanted to trade either had a no-trade clause or an immovable contract; or a contract in a constant state of investigation by the NHL; or was named Michael Ryder(notes).


Wrestler That Best Personifies the Team

Incredible expectations and potential for greatness that quickly transformed into shocking failure? Why, that's exactly what the 2009-10 Bruins and Lex Luger's WWF run looked like ... and the Bruins didn't even have an illegal steel plate surgically implanted in their forearms.

Forwards

The reversal of fortune for the Bruins' offense last season was one of the most shocking developments of 2010-11. Boston went from second in the NHL with 270 goals in the previous season to just 196 last year. The loss of Phil Kessel(notes), injuries, general inconsistency ... it all contributed to the decline.

When healthy, this lineup would appear ready to reverse the trend. Marc Savard remains, for now, the team's No. 1 pivot and should have Lucic and Horton on his wings. Patrice Bergeron(notes) (52 points) may anchor the second line with the ageless Mark Recchi(notes) (18 goals) in the right and rookie Seguin on the left.

By the end of the season, David Krejci(notes) (52 points) was skating with Miro Satan and Marco Sturm(notes). With Satan unsigned and Sturm out with a bum knee until mid-November, one expects Blake Wheeler(notes) (18 goals) to seem time on his wing. Michael Ryder (18 goals) will chip in as well.

Shawn Thornton(notes) remains the muscle in the lineup, and has a new 2-year deal.

Defense

Zdeno Chara(notes) won the Norris Trophy in 2009 but wasn't one of the three finalists last season. It wasn't for lack of quality play: He had 44 points and a plus-19, and led a defense that gave up exactly one more goal (191) than it did in the previous year (190). It was because the Bruins weren't the conference leader they were in the previous season. Chara's in a contract year; expect good things.

His partner should be Johnny Boychuk(notes), who had 15 points in 51 games last season. Dennis Seidenberg(notes) could anchor a second pairing with Mark Stuart(notes), unless Seidenberg's paired with Matt Hunwick(notes). Andrew Ference(notes), Hunwick, Adam McQuaid(notes) and others will vie for the last two.

Overall, it's a unit that seems like it's one more solid NHL top four defenseman away from being very good.

Goaltending

Tim Thomas(notes) signed a long-term contract and then saw his No. 1 goalie status slip to Tuukka Rask(notes) during January. Rask earned the gig with a 1.97 GAA and .931 save percentage in Claude Julien's system, which gave Thomas the Vezina in the previous season. Having both on the roster is a good thing for Rask, who will get a push from Thomas. In the figurative sense; not in, like, the Tim Thomas sense.

Match We'd Pay To Watch

Marc Savard vs. Matt Cooke in a brain-vs.-brain match, with the loser getting his cranium placed in a vice like that dude Pesci tortured in "Casino."

Breakout Player

Johnny Boychuk's going to see increased minutes and responsibility, and he's going to respond well to it. Because he's worked his ass off for the chance to make a difference on defense. From NESN:

"He made great strides this year," said general manager Peter Chiarelli after announcing the signing. "He was patient before he got into the lineup. He learned our system. He's got a dimensional shot. He competes. He's got size. But the biggest thing that I saw was that he's improved from being the Defenseman of the Year in the American League, to being our seventh D to start and working his way into our lineup patiently, but learning along the way."

We like the cut of his jib.

Potential Flop

If we had to chose one, it'd by Tyler Seguin. No, not on an Alex Daigle/Patrick Stefan level. He's going to be an outstanding pro. But asking a center from juniors to be your second-line left wing might be asking too much. Would it shock you to see Seguin start there and then gradually easy down the lineup, like what happened with Steve Stamkos's rookie season?

Finishing Move

Thomas may no longer be the Bruins' No. 1 goalie, but let's see Tuukka Rask take out a foe with a forearm shiver while Jack Edwards wipes the foam off the microphone. Only thing missing here is a goofy goalie-centric name for this finishing move ...

Special Teams

The Bruins were No. 22 on the power play (16.6 percent) during the regular season, but fourth overall in the postseason. Horton's addition should help, as should a healthy Savard. Their kill was third in the NHL with an 86.4 percent conversion rate, and all the major components (including forward Daniel Paille(notes)) are back.

Coach/GM

Julien wasn't the scapegoat for the Bruins' early struggles, and that paid off with a playoff berth and a first-round win. But now he's The Coach Who Lost a 3-0 Lead, and that's going to linger into this season. You fire Julien, you fire a coach and a philosophy for the team. He's not on the hottest of seats, but there's definitely a warming trend.

Peter Chiarelli tied his own hands with some high-priced, no-movement contracts that are still on the roster. Adding Horton was a coup; having another first-round pick from the Leafs is even better. There's still tinkering to be done here, but Chiarelli's built a solid contender. What he ends up doing with Marc Savard will be a definitive moment for the team.

2010-11 Preseason Report Card:

Forwards: A
Defense: B
Goaltending: B+
Special Teams: B
Coaching: B
Management: B+

Main Event or Dark Match? (Prediction)

Bruins are a playoff team with larger aspirations. There's no question they've got the talent up front and the goaltending in the back. The defense is in a bit of a transition, but you'll not find a better anchor than Chara. Health is always a concern, as is what the team plans to do for salary cap relief with Savard and Thomas. But the bottom line for Boston is this: They looked like a Cup winner in Julien's system two years ago and a underwhelming snore for most of last season -- will the real Boston Bruins please show themselves?

Entrance Music: Like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Milan Lucic makes the fans pop when the glass breaks. Unlike Stone Cold Steve Austin, he's never driven a Zamboni to the wrestling ring. We think.

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