Remember when the Bruins were routinely written off as a distant fourth in the popularity race among Boston teams? Some would even joke in the days of Dave Lewis (2006-07 season) that they had fallen behind the Revolution.
I’m here to tell you the Bruins are not just defending Stanley Cup champs, they have ascended to the top spot in town. They are once again the biggest and baddest in Boston and they’re proving that’s not going to change anytime soon.
There’s no need for catchy promotional slogans. There’s no need to bring in a retread coach or player. There’s no need for hype.
The Boston Bruins are simply the best team in town right now, and everyone in the organization is enjoying the view from the top.
As well they should.
No team in Boston is hotter than the Black and Gold. Not the Celtics coming back from a six-month lockout, with or without Rajon Rondo. Not the Patriots in the midst of another routinely dominant double-digit win season, which will no doubt result in another AFC East title. And no, not even the Red Sox, who are the perennial kings of the sports throne, World Series or not.
The Boston Bruins are New England’s most favored sons right now.
It’s quite remarkable that just four years ago this statement would’ve been unimaginable.
Just last Saturday, after the Bruins dispatched of the Maple Leafs in a routine 4-1 win at TD Garden, coach Claude Julien recalled during his first game behind the bench (Oct. 18, 2007) that there were thousands of fans disguised as empty seats for the HOME OPENER!
Last Saturday also marked the 100th consecutive sellout for the Bruins, and say this for New England fans, they know a winner when they see it.
“As much as it’s great for the organization, I guess as coaches and players you feel pretty good about it because it means you’re giving people some hockey that excites them and makes them want to come out and watch us,” Julien said. “It’s nice to see, I know that my first year here, my first game behind the bench, I kind of looked around and there were six or eight thousand people and it’s certainly not something you like seeing. So, it’s nice that we kind of turned it around and we’re selling out. And hopefully that’s going to continue for a long time.”
The Bruins capped off a remarkable run of 15 games without a regulation loss on Monday when they skated past Sidney Crosby and the East-leading Penguins, 3-1, a win that had all the earmarks of, “Thanks for keeping first place in the conference warm for us but we’ll take it from here.”
Barring a catastrophic string of injuries, the Bruins are perfectly positioned to defend their title. They are where the Celtics were in Feb. 2009 before Kevin Garnett went up for a dunk in Utah.
But unlike the Celtics, the Bruins play a game built on a team depth not just superstar power. They are like the Patriots in this regard.
The Bruins have more depth than anyone. They are built with the perfect blend of veterans (Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg) and youth (Seguin, David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand) and all types in between.
As our Paul Flannery pointed out two weeks ago, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli deserves credit for putting the roster together. Cam Neely deserves credit for putting the fire back in the organization.
And Julien deserves credit for keeping the perfect pulse of the team.
The team went through the typical Cup “hangover” and started 3-7-0. On the outside, there was the typical reactionary panic.
Not on the inside.
“I’m proud of the way our players took care of their business, not getting too high or too low,” said Julien, who three weeks earlier chided his team publicly about “not doing enough” to be focused pregame.
And other teams are taking note, most notably their top playoff rival from the last two seasons.
The Flyers realized they were lucky in 2010 to complete their epic comeback before getting swept last season by the Bruins.
Philly saw the Bruins use players like Krejci and Marchand, who outworked and outhustled top Flyers playmakers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Flyers GM Paul Holmgren raised eyebrows around the league when he dumped his top two goal-scorers from the last two seasons and entrusted the future to Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn and Jakub Voracek.
Instead of playing musical chairs at goalie, the Flyers tried to match Thomas with the signing of 31-year old Ilya Bryzgalov.
Will it pay off like it did for the Bruins? Will it even make a difference? We should find out in the spring as both teams are reloaded.
Teams that handle their business like the Bruins handled Tyler Seguin this week are championship driven. And the Bruins, as defending Cup champs, are clearly focused on a mission.
When Seguin didn’t show up for a team breakfast/meeting on Tuesday morning, there was no playing around. A 19-year-old needs to learn his lesson if he wants to be man among men on a championship team.
Nothing less, nothing more, as Julien pointed out Thursday morning before the game with the Panthers.
“All I know, this is old news,” Julien said of Tuesday’s benching in the cold of Winnipeg. “This is two days old, and for us, we've really turned the page on that. It's not even an issue today, and old news is old news. We've moved on so I don't even know that I want to go back to that. He's fine and I'm fine. He's in the lineup tonight, he's going to be playing and I think unfortunately, you guys are trying to make a bigger story out of this than it is. He's missed a game, he's paid his dues. It's a 19-year-old that is fine with us, he's a good professional, and that's it. Page turned and we move on.”
So, the question this week for the tweeps was: What makes the Bruins odds-on favorites to repeat as Cup champs?
@Trags bruins have character and heart and quite frankly they just don't give up without a fight..great depth, leadership plus best goalies.
Ask Shawn Thornton about that. These players stand up for each other more than any team in recent Boston memory.
@Trags The Bruins are ready to work hard no matter the odds the records or what the media says. Back to the blue collar.
For all the talk about the skill and speed of players like Seguin, Bergy and Peverley, it’s actually the work along the boards of players like Marchand, Bergeron, Lucic and the unheralded defensemen that sticks out the most.
@Trags I love the grind em down style. By the 3rd the other team is lookn over their sholdrs n panic passin.
Aside from the last two games in Winnipeg and at home against Florida, right on the money about that. During their 15-game stretch, they were outscoring teams at a 3-to-1 pace in the third.
@Trags Tyler Seguin us playing great and Tim Thomas is a stone wall in goal only giving up 1 to the pens. #bruins
The game against the Penguins was a classic measuring stick game for a team that wanted to show that last June was no fluke. They had passion and determination for all 60 minutes.
@Trags the chemistry, every line is clicking and they stand up for each other
You got that right. Two words: Shawn Thornton. He stands up for pretty much EVERY line.
@Trags Depth. To win you need depth. Bruins can roll out 3 good lines, two #1 goalies and have a D system that allows for little mistakes.
Which is why the Bruins can afford to not rush someone back from an injury, a luxury not even all the top teams in the NHL have.
@Trags they're extremely tough with balanced scoring from all 4 lines with top notch defense and one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL
Dennis Seidenberg is an unsung hero of the blue-line group for the Bruins. With Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Joe Corvo, Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid, the Bruins have one of the most versatile and deep defensive pairings in the game.
@Trags T-E-A-M! Everyone contributes, there are no passengers. They have the best balance of skill & toughness in the NHL!
No argument here. The line of Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot is a line that a lot of teams would like to have. Throw in the checking line of Thornton, Paille and Campbell and the Bruins are stocked with versatility.
@trags Seguin'sevolution as a great player, consistency from all 4 lines, leadership of ZC33 & PB37, experience and chemistry of the team.
When Claude Julien put Seguin on the line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, it was another move worth of his perennial status as a Jack Adams candidate. Julien wanted Seguin to mature in his rookie season on the third and fourth lines and learn about the hard work it takes to success and work for offense. This season, he took the training wheels off and is enjoying the fruits of Seguin’s labor on the ice.
@Trags Balance Guts Toughness Speed Transition game Experience Growth with the youngsters & Cap Room! Best goaltending Good Coach too
This team has it all right now. No arguing that.
Expect to win another Stanley Cup. It’s called Bruins.
Before we wrap it up this week, I want to give a shout out to one of the best, brightest and now most accomplished athletes no one is talking about in Boston.
During a dismal 4-8 season, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly had yet another astonishingly good season. One year after leading major college football in tackles, the junior went out and did it again, amassing 191 tackles.
He already has set school and ACC records for career tackles with 532 in his three seasons. Kuechly has had 10 or more tackles in 33 of his 37 career games. He had 191 tackles this season and 183 last season, the top two single-season totals in ACC history.
While Giants LB Mark Herzlich set a remarkable standard for linebacker play at BC, Kuechly may be surpassing it. This week, Kuechly took home two of the most prestigious defensive awards in college football.
He was named the Butkus Award recipient, given to the nation's top linebacker. Then, on Wednesday, he took home the Lombardi Award as the nation's top collegiate lineman. Kuechly beat out Alabama linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower and Stanford offensive tackle JonathanMartin for the award.
Last year, I wrote about how the Cincinnati native out of football power St. Xavier would make the perfect Patriot.
Scouts haven’t disagreed. If the heady Kuechly chose to come out early in the spring, he would likely be a top-15 pick, as he is No. 12 on the Scouts Inc. list of the top 32 players for the 2012 NFL draft. He’s 10th on Mel Kiper’s board.
He’s going to do what’s best for him and his family. But I’ll be honest, I’m hoping he stays so we can enjoy one of the best college players in the land before he hits NFL pay dirt.