Sometimes pieces like this can be quite a stretch when said team doesn’t have much of a chance to go all the way in their given sport. That certainly isn’t the case with the Bruins (50-20-12) at the moment since Bovada gives them the second-best odds (11/2) to win the Stanley Cup this postseason, trailing only Nashville (15/4). Keeping in mind the sheer unpredictably of the NHL Playoffs (part of what makes them so great), here are five reasons why Boston could be hoisting the Cup sometime in June.
They are one of the best teams in the NHL
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This is an obvious one but you have to keep in mind that over the course of 82 games, the B’s proved time and again that they are a legitimate contender by accumulating the fourth most points (112). They were a blistering 28-8-5 at TD Garden and a more than respectable 22-12-7 on the road with a goal-differential of plus-56 (tied for 3rd in the league with the Predators). The Atlantic Division was definitely top-heavy but playing quality teams like the Lightning (54-23-5) and the Maple Leafs (49-26-7) so often should be a good tune-up for what the playoffs will bring.
They can play any style of game that is needed
The mark of a top team in any sport is the ability to morph into whatever outfit they need to win a certain type of contest. In addition to their strong defense that was already highlighted, the B’s also scored 270 goals this season (4th most in the Eastern Conference). The Stanley Cup playoffs are often decided by special teams and if that is the case once again, the Bruins should be in good shape since they have the fourth-best power play in the NHL (23.5%) and third-best penalty kill (83.7%).
They have the right mix of veterans and young talent
Building chemistry with players that can be twice the age of their teammates (think of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy) is a difficult task but Bruins GM Don Sweeney seems to have aced that test for 2017-18. Boston still has six guys that have won the Cup here (Chara, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Adam McQuaid and Tuukka Rask) in 2011 vs. Vancouver in addition to making it back to the Final in 2013 vs. Chicago. They’ve supplemented those key veterans with up-and-coming stars like McAvoy (7 goals, 25 assists), David Pastrnak (35 goals, 45 assists), Jake DeBrusk (16 goals, 27 assists) and Ryan Donato (5 goals, 4 assists in 12 games) who have already shown what they can do at this level.
They are due for a long postseason run
Last spring, Boston went six games with Ottawa in the first round before exiting the postseason and before that, they had missed the playoffs the previous two campaigns so it feels like things are lining up for a long ride this time around. This was head coach Bruce Cassidy’s first full season in charge of the Bruins and he’s been nothing but a complete success so it’s hard to pick against him when basically all the moves he made this year worked out well for the club. Assuming (a big if) that they can get past the Leafs in round one, besides Tampa Bay and the two-time defending champs from Pittsburgh (47-29-6), who else in the East really scares you?
All things told, they are in pretty good health for this time of the season
Unlike that Senators series where their defensive corps was in shambles, the B’s enter these playoffs with few major injuries. Defenseman Brandon Carlo (ankle) is done for the season but it looks like forwards Rick Nash (3 goals, 3 assists in 11 games with Boston), Riley Nash (15 goals, 26 assists) and Sean Kuraly (6 goals, 8 assists) should all be back if not for Game 1 on Thursday vs. Toronto but later in the series after they missed the end of the regular season. With those players back, the Bruins would have more depth throughout their lineup than they have had in years (since 2013-14 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy).