As the tumultuous saga of the 2012-13 NHL lockout draws to its long-awaited close, the Boston Bruins are gearing up to take to the TD Garden ice once more. The impending opening of the season has been a long time coming, so now it’s time to think about things to wait for, expect and see in the 2013 season from the men of the Spoked B.
Since a shortened season means every game is more weighty than usual, it is imperative that the Bruins hit the ground–or ice–running and never hesitate. Think about how awesome they were in November 2011. Then think about how they were much less successful in February 2012. Obviously, the MO for the 2013 season is to be more like November and less like February. A slump of even a few games could negatively affect a team’s chances of making the playoffs or their seeding.
The last time the NHL had a shortened season, the Bruins were fourth in the Eastern Conference and third in the Northeast Division with 57 points. At that time, when there were only four divisions of seven teams each, 47 points was the minimum to join the playoff race for the East. But back then, games could still be settled in ties. Things have changed, obviously, so how will the standings look?
When the Bruins take to the ice, there are going to be some new faces–and a notable returning face, too. Before the lockout, it was pretty much a given that Dougie Hamilton would say goodbye to his junior team and take a shot at getting into Boston’s lineup. The lockout forced him to spend more time in Niagara than he may have wanted to, but any experience helps. Now that there are actually two spots open on defense, though one is temporary until Adam McQuaid heals, expect to see Hamilton join the ranks.
Jordan Caron, who would normally be part of the ever-shifting third line, is also hurt right now. Someone from the Providence Bruins will most likely get the nod to take his place, at least until he feels better, so I’d like to see Chris Bourque. He leads the team in points right now and especially excels at providing assists. For a more goal-minded addition, perhaps Jamie Tardif, with his team-leading 16 ginos, could be considered. Tardif, like Caron, is a right-winger while Bourque is a lefty.
But it would be pretty cool to see a new generation of Bourque hit the ice for the Bruins.
As for the returning face, it’s Nathan Horton. He’s been ready to go for a while but sidelined by the lockout, so I’m sure his anxiousness to finally get back to normal is just enormous. He should definitely earn a nice standing ovation when he returns.
The first time Shawn Thornton drops the gloves is going to be exciting. Who will he fight? When will it happen? What will spark it? Will he be among the league leaders in fights or even take the lead? Will he score on another penalty shot at some point?
I’m looking forward to the appreciative hoots of “Tuuuuuk!” when Tuukka Rask makes a great save, too.
Speaking of Rask, his time playing in the Czech Republic may have helped silence doubters who thought he wasn’t ready to take on the number one goalie spot. He helped get HC Plzen up to the top spot in the league, where they still are today, and their fans were much appreciative of the Finnish visitor. The Bruins had a lot of guys play over in Europe, so did that experience help keep them in optimal shape? Tyler Seguin really seemed to benefit from his playing time in Switzerland. Can he put up three separate hat tricks for the Bruins, too?
The eco-friendly Andrew Ference has started a scheme where he will plant 50 trees every time Seguin scores a goal. Well, it started with him after the Stanley Cup of Chowder blog pledged through Plant a Billion to plant 50 trees each time Ference scored. As a defenseman, though, it’s less likely that Ference will score, though not impossible. So, he took it upon himself to one-up that pledge and offer 50 trees each time his more offense-minded teammate scores. Let’s hope Seguin scores a lot–for the environment!