Bruins: Three players that must step up in the Stanley Cup playoffs
As head coach Claude Julien and many of his players emphasized on Sunday night after their regular season finale (a 4-2 loss to Ottawa), the Bruins are looking forward to starting fresh in the postseason and hopefully putting some of their main issues (notably goal-scoring) behind them. Boston begins its 2013 postseason against Toronto on Wednesday (7 p.m., NESN) in Game 1 at TD Garden. The Bruins and Maple Leafs are meeting for the first time in the playoffs since 1974 and for the B’s to beat their Original Six and Northeast Division rivals and make another run to the Cup, they’ll need these three players (along with many others) to step up and play their best.
It’s easy to forget that Rask hasn’t been Boston’s starting goaltender in the playoffs since three seasons ago. That ended with the Bruins historic collapse against the Flyers (up 3-0 in the series, 3-0 in Game 7 at home) in the second round. Tim Thomas is long gone and this is Tuukka’s team. It’s simplistic to say, but the B’s will likely go as far as he can take them. A hot goaltender winning big in the NHL playoffs is a recurring theme every spring and there’s no reason to think that Rask couldn’t be the latest star in that role.
Boston’s captain is 36-years-old with a million miles on his NHL odometer but he is still one of the most dominant players, regardless of position, in the league. He struggled a bit down the stretch (understandably looking worn down after an insane schedule) but is expected to pick things up in the playoffs. Julien will likely team Chara with Dennis Seidenberg, creating one of the NHL’s best shutdown defensive pairings. It’s quite possible that Toronto’s Phil Kessel (remember him?) will be seeing Chara in his nightmares after this series.
There are very few fights in the playoffs but that doesn’t mean that the games aren’t super physical or played with a certain edge that you just don’t see in the regular season. Enter Lucic who was a ghost for much of the year but emerged from the mist with a goal and two assists in two contests over the weekend. It couldn’t come at a better time with Nathan Horton potentially on the shelf (he missed the past five games) for at least the start of the playoffs. Lucic is one of the few Bruins forwards that can punish opponents physically and on the scoreboard.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter @RichSlate