For the last two-plus months, all anyone could talk about regarding this Bruins team was that it needed at least another defenseman, and maybe two.
With Dennis Seidenberg lost for the season with a torn ACL, there would be no way that Boston's blue line would be able to be as tough as it had been in recent postseasons unless Peter Chiarelli went out and got a bona fide minute-eating, shot-blocking, dead-on balls accurate top-four defenseman.
Well, he didn't, and he's still got a team good enough to go to the Stanley Cup finals.
That isn't what Bruins fans want to hear, and one can imagine sports radio will have a field day with the lack of movement on Boston's part. The team got two defensemen, but neither are sure-fire top-four guys. Instead, one (Andrej Meszaros) is a perceived bottom-pairing player who could become a top-four guy or a healthy scratch, while the other (Corey Potter) is a waiver pickup who figures to be nothing more than insurance against having multiple right-shot defensemen out of the lineup at once.
So how are the Bruins still a major Cup contender despite the lack of a sure-fire top-four addition at the deadline, especially when considering that Andrew Ference played such a big role in the team's two recent Cup runs?
That would be because the Bruins aren't competing against the standard they've set, but rather against the other teams. This defense won't be as good as it was last season or in 2011, but the overall roster is better than any other one in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins are the best five-on-five team in hockey. They have the second-best goal differential in the league. They have the fifth-most goals per game in the league. They have the best shutdown defenseman in the league and a goaltender who is fifth in the league in save percentage and is tied for the NHL lead in shutouts. That goalie also happened to dominate in the playoffs last season and was the primary reason Finland captured the bronze medal in the Olympics.
That isn't putting a positive spin on a trade deadline in which the Bruins didn't make a splash, but rather putting things in perspective. The natural reaction to a relatively quiet trade deadline is disappointment, but look at the trade deadline as a whole. If you really want to talk about teams that need defense and didn't get it, look no further than Pittsburgh, as the Penguins added Marcel Goc and Lee Stempniak for forward depth but didn't do anything about their back end.
Montreal got Thomas Vanek, and that absolutely should scare the Bruins. The Habs were good enough already to be a threat as a potential second-round opponent, and adding a scorer like Vanek who has torched the B's in his career (30 goals, 31 assists for 61 points) only makes them better.
But that's it, really. The Lightning get Steven Stamkos back from injury this week, but the team had to trade Martin St. Louis to the Rangers. The Senators kept Chris Phillips and added Ales Hemsky, but that hardly puts them over the top. Washington made some nice moves, but does Jaroslav Halak have another postseason like 2009-10 in him?
The Bruins are better than all these teams, though Pittsburgh and Montreal are the two main threats. Remember, though, that Pittsburgh isn't the Pittsburgh we've seen in recent years. Kris Letang's hockey future is unclear after he suffered a stroke, while Paul Martin is out with a broken hand. Marc-Andre Fleury is having a better season than he did last year, but is that roster better than Boston's?
Had the Penguins gotten Ryan Kesler, it may have been a different story, as their offensive star power would figure to be a bigger problem than usual for the Bruins considering the prospects of their second line.
As for the Habs, they're a threat but hardly a favorite. The time will one day come when Carey Price carries the Canadiens through the postseason. If this is the year it happens, the road won’t be quite as hard given that the good teams are out west.
But that’s really it for the Eastern Conference, and that’s all the Bruins could have hoped for from their opponents. Vanek to the Habs is troublesome, but it hardly puts Montreal over the top to the point that it becomes a favorite. Remember that stat about the Bruins being the best five-on-five team in hockey? The Penguins are 11th and the Habs are 22nd in that category.
Should the Bruins have done more at the deadline? Of course, if they could have. Peter Chiarelli said after the deadline that he spent Tuesday discussing deals for some of the available players with term left on their contracts, saying that he “thought we were close” on some of the players.
The fact that no real good defensemen were moved should tell you that those unsuccessful discussions might not fall on the Bruins. If the prices were realistic, someone would have gotten those players, but instead Andrew MacDonald (from the Islanders to the Flyers) and Andrej Meszaros somehow are the two best defensemen traded.
So no, they didn’t get the Seidenberg replacement. They also didn’t get worse, and the Eastern Conference didn’t change enough for the Bruins’ status as a favorite to win the conference and represent the East in the Cup finals to change, either.