After missing the Stanley Cup playoffs the last two years, the Boston Bruins are back in the tournament.
They clinched a playoff berth Tuesday night at the TD Garden, beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 for their sixth straight win, for which, a minor celebration ensued.
I'm all about a good celebration, whether it's as a team or an individual achievement. But there's also a time and a place for everything. Given how the last two seasons ended for the Bruins, I'd say Tuesday night's clincher was something to celebrate.
Now that the B's are back in the playoffs, the next question is, "What type of playoff run will make this season a success?"
For a handful of teams, the only answer is, "Winning the Stanley Cup." A Stanley Cup Final appearance shouldn't be good enough for these teams. They have to hoist the Cup. If they don't, then it's not a success.
That's not to say the B's can't make a sneaky run. They absolutely have the ability to be a dangerous underdog. With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci being a major strength up the middle, Tuukka Rask playing some of his best hockey, and a recent commitment to team defense, the Bruins have all the pieces to make it interesting.
But if they don't, should we really be crushed? I know I won't be. In fact, for this Bruins team, I'm just happy to see them with a spot in the tournament. I want to see young players like David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner, Noel Acciari, Brandon Carlo, and Colin Miller get a taste of playoff hockey.
And who knows, if they can avoid a Wild Card and stay within the division for the first-round, then I'll definitely give the Bruins a chance to beat the Ottawa Senators or Toronto Maple Leafs in a seven-game series. But again, if they don't, my expectations are at a point where this year's playoff berth makes me even more excited for next season.
Add defenseman Charlie McAvoy to the mix in 2017-18, along with forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (JFK), and maybe a backup goaltender that will be able to win more than one game through the first four months of the season, and we could be talking about a Bruins team that wins the Atlantic division and is one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup next summer.
Look, I'm just trying to be realistic, based on everything I've seen all season long. For most of 2016-17, the Bruins dealt with an obvious talent issue, most notably on the blue line. Claude Julien took the fall for that defensive talent issue, which led to interim coach Bruce Cassidy's aggressive forecheck that lit a fire under the team's behind.
Eventually, even Cassidy admitted that they had to get back to defensive hockey. And during this crucial six-game win streak that's put them back into the playoffs, that commitment to defense has paid off more than anything else.
But will it last? Julien's playoff teams proved you don't need the most talented roster to win this time of year. All I'm telling you is, Cassidy's playoff team next year will be more talented than this year's roster. And that's not a bad thing.
For now, the Bruins are back in the playoffs. And that's a great thing. As for what happens in the playoffs, I'm just happy they crashed the party.
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