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  • Tempering expectations

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    Tempering expectations

    Tim Rosenthal December 19, 2017

    BUFFALO – Is it time for Bostonians to get back on the Bruins bandwagon?

    With their hot two-month stretch, the Bruins are starting to get some buzz around the National Hockey League. Ever since snapping their four-game losing skid during the California trip, the Black and Gold are playing inspired hockey.

    Bruce Cassidy’s squad come into Tuesday’s game in Buffalo winners of 10 of their last 14. From getting healthier to the upward trend of the youth movement, the Black and Gold are finding ways impressive ways to win against some of the upper echelon teams like the Blue Jackets, Lightning and the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins.

    Yes, the rookies will hit another wall, and yes, things won’t be as smooth during certain stretches for Cassidy and company. Still, the B’s are on good track to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

    The Bruins have a good hold on third place in the Atlantic Division. The closest team to them are the Canadiens, who trail the B’s by five points. Boston sits four points behind the Maple Leafs for second in the division.

    Another telling stat: the Bruins have games in hand on everyone in the East, including three on Toronto.

    The recent stretch along with a favorable schedule put the Bruins on a solid path to the playoffs. Both Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy are favorites to take home some individual hardware – the Selke and Calder Trophy, respectively – come June’s NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

    Beyond that, is there anything else the Bruins have in store in 2017-18? Perhaps even a Stanley Cup?

    Realistically, the Bruins still have more work ahead if they want to enter the discussion of Cup favorites. The youth movement – sparked by McAvoy, Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk (to name a few) – has come a long way since the beginning of the year, but there are still holes in the roster that GM Don Sweeney needs to address, including a left-shot top-four defenseman.

    The B’s still have a solid core that isn’t going anywhere. Barring injuries, Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, David Pastrnak, David Backes, Krug, Chara and Tuukka Rask will anchor the team’s Cup aspirations.

    Though it isn’t a direct comparison, the Bruins can look for inspiration from one of last year’s Cup finalists. From Greg Wyshynski at ESPN:

    If the Bruins want inspiration for a potential Stanley Cup run, they need look no further than the Nashville Predators last season.

    Look, it’s not a perfect comparison. The Predators had a better blue line. They have a better coach. But both teams are regular-season possession monsters. Both teams are powered by a dominant top line that can flat-out take over games — Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have combined for seven goals at 5-on-5 and having given up one. Which is pretty good.

    Both teams have a supporting cast at forward that’s a combination of veterans and dynamic younger players. For the Bruins, that means guys like center David Krejci playing with guys like Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk.

    But what the Predators had last season that the Bruins aren’t sure they’ll have: a veteran goalie who finds another level early in the playoffs and wins rounds for his team. Nashville’s Pekka Rinne went from a .918 save percentage and a 2.42 goals-against in the regular season to a .930 and a 1.96 in the postseason. He started the playoffs with back-to-back shutouts. He won seven of first eight postseason starts.

    Of course, anything can happen in the playoffs. Just ask those Nashville Predators.

    There are plenty of reasons for optimism regarding the Bruins’ future. Asking for a Stanley Cup run, however, is a little too optimistic right now.

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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