Friday, December 23, 2011

Bruins 8, Florida 0

Late in the third period of Friday night's 8-0 Bruins victory over the Florida Panthers, NESN commentators Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley discussed whether or not this version of the B's is actually better than the title winning group from a year ago. While it is easy to get overexcited about your team 55 minutes into a bloodbath, the resume that this team has put together through the holiday break makes it hard to argue otherwise.

After a miserable start that had New England's radio and TV personalities frantically calling for the potential trade of Milan Lucic or David Krejci among others, all the Bruins have done is go 20-2-1. In a league that has teams like Tampa Bay go from the best young team in hockey at the end of last season to having the third worst record in the East in a matter of an off-season, and even tonight's opponent in Florida becoming a division leader overnight, 20-2-1 is flat out ridiculous. They hold the best goal differential in the league at +56...the Red Wings are second at +33. Digest that for a second, and realize that the 23 goal difference between the Bruins and anyone else in the league alone would stand for 4th in the NHL.

A major reason why this team is better than last year is having Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley for the whole season. Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand have stepped up their games tremendously, and the rock solid defense goes three pairings deep. This year's team is faster, more physical, better on the puck and infinitely better on special teams.

At this point last season Boston was a contender for playoff home ice, but frantically looking to deal at the deadline in order to ensure playoff positioning. They have found the magic they caught midway through the '11 playoffs and have improved in every aspect of their game since. From former enemy Benoit Pouliot to captain Zdeno Chara, every player knows their role and executes the gameplan night in and night out. They've dealt with injuries to key guys already and haven't missed a beat.

The road to the Stanley Cup will be going through Beantown, and in order for anyone to take the throne away, they will have to beat either Tim Thomas or Tuuka Rask 4 out of 7 games. At this point I don't see that happening. The goaltenders are putting together a historic season, both placing in the top three in the entire league in goals against and save percentage.

The 2011 Cup Champion Bruins fought through their flaws to win a title, the 2012 version will have to fight to find any.

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