Last night was the first time in years I felt good about the Bruins. For the past 3 years, it is safe to say the Bruins have choked. Straight up pooped their pants in the last stretch of the season, and I was at the one last year when they couldn’t pull out a win, at home, against the god awful Carolina Hurricanes. But this year, the eye test told me this was a different squad. It
It doesn’t take a loyal hockey fan to see the difference in style of play once Claude Julien was given the boot. His style of hockey was simple, yet not made for the players on the current roster. When the Bruins won the cup in 2011, Claude’s style of grind the boards, and throw the puck on net and get rebounds was a perfect fit. We had the defense for it. Big, tough, and a great goaltender in Tim Thomas to go along with it. The hockey club would grind games, wear down their opponent, and after 4 games in a 7 games series the other team would be noticeably slower and hesitant to make plays on the puck. This is why the Bruins became champions. But after some roster moves, and key players aging, they simply were not the same team and unfortunately it took management 6 years to figure it out.
Once Claude was ousted, interim coach Bruce Cassidy allowed the team to play the style they were most suited for. He let the players loose, and they started scoring again. From Marchand to Bergeron, Backes to Pasta, the team was scoring and winning games and last night they clinched a playoff birth against the Tampa Bay lightning in 4-0 pounding. Now, are the Bruins the best team in hockey? No. Are they the best team in the East? No. But they are playing some great puck, and seem more motivated than ever to make a run in playoffs and possibly meet their ex-coach in the conference finals.
As for my playoff prediction, I don’t see the once mighty Bruins defense holding up against a top tier team, whoever it is. Rask is an above average goalie, but with an aging Chara, young and small Carlo and Krug, I see the Bruins maybe making out of the first round but not the second. Having said that, would I be surprised if they did? No. They are playing great and have veteran leadership and experience on their side. However, if they have to play either Pittsburgh or Washington in the first round, my money is on the other side.