With the playoffs on our doorstep, reminding us that our Rangers have yet to clinch a spot, it’s time to continue our look ahead at teams that we’ll definitely be seeing through late April at the very least. Though the focus has been mostly on the west, the East is also somewhat settled up. The reigning Eastern Conference champs, the Boston Bruins, have been in destruction mode all season and don’t seem to be letting up.
The Bruins, cashing in with 113 points as of today, are making quick work of nearly everyone who comes their way. Much like last year in the playoffs, they’re a terrifying group to look at, which is useful as the Rangers come down the home stretch and need them to make work of rivals like the Flyers. With their defeat of Philly yesterday, they clinched the best record in the East and home ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference finals, something that’s a huge deal as they’ve got the best home record in all of hockey.
So why are they so good at hockey? For one, their captain is a 6’9 giant of a man whose slapshot careens in excess of 100mph and literally breaks body parts of souls brave enough to try to block them. They’ve got arguably the most irritating pest in Brad Marchand, a player who knows exactly how to get under the opposing team’s skin so badly that you forget that he’s actually a skilled player. With 48 points on the season and 64 PIM, it speaks volumes that the player you use to draw penalties has so much talent of his own. Opposing teams despise him, which means he is doing his job extremely well. Add to the mix an amazing young goaltender in Tuukka Rask, the 27-year-old Fin who just earned his 100th career win (for comparative purposes, Lundqvist just captured his 300th win at the age of 32) and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.
Without mention of the rest of their roster, including alternate captains in Bergeron, Kelly and Krejci – players that would make phenomenal captains on most NHL squads – we should ask what makes these players have the drive and passion to employ their skillset the way that they do. The answer is stellar coaching. Claude Julien, the hall of fame bound coach of the Bruins for the past 7 seasons, is a strong candidate for the Jack Adams award this year. Think players wouldn’t run through a wall for him? Let’s all think back about Gregory Campbell finishing a shift with a broken leg in the playoffs last year. Absurd, amazing and why we love hockey.
You could read a million articles on why Julien’s hockey smarts have put the team where they are, but in this bloggers opinion, all you have to do is look at last year’s playoff run. The Bruins made the Rangers look silly with the use of their fourth line. Is it good drafting? Sure. Great players? Of course. But you always have to realize that the amount of faith and great coaching behind these skilled individuals is there. Every player in the NHL is excellent at hockey – don’t forget that. It’s what coaches and organizations do with this talent that makes a team good or bad.
If you look at teams that absolutely terrify an opposing fanbase, the Bruins are right up there with the seemingly elite West teams. I think if any contender for the Cup were to come from the East, it’s Boston. With four more games on their schedule, it’ll certainly be interesting to see if they contend for the Presidents’ Trophy and, also, Lord Stanley’s Cup.