The Bruins enter the 2013-14 season with the expectation they can win the two games they couldn’t in last June’s Stanley Cup Final.
Luckily for Boston, it returns most of the same roster, along with some key upgrades.
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Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Jaromir Jagr, Andrew Ference and Anton Khudobin are gone, but in their place the B’s have Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson. It should make for a seamless transition for the Black and Gold.
The Bruins are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference for the next few years, and they locked up franchise goaltender Tuukka Rask and center Patrice Bergeron to long-term extensions over the summer.
But the conference they are favored to win will look different. The NHL underwent a major overhaul in the offseason, shifting to four divisions: Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific.
At least going into this season, the Bruins appear to be in the toughest one (Atlantic). Including Boston, five of the eight teams made the playoffs last season. Detroit is the NHL’s most consistent franchise of the last few decades, and now they are in the same division as the B’s. Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto were all in the defunct Northeast Division with Boston, so the Bruins are very familiar with three clubs that are each getting better in their own respect.
Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski — Boston’s three talented young defensemen who shined in last season’s playoffs — will probably all make the team, but odds are one of them is a healthy scratch to start the regular season.
It has been a short offseason, but the Bruins should be extra focused given how close they were to knocking off the Blackhawks.
Top early season games:
Boston vs. Tampa Bay (Oct. 3)
The Pomp and Circumstance of a new season is exciting for reasons that don’t need to be explained.
Boston vs. Pittsburgh (Nov. 25)
Last year’s No. 1 seed in the East, along with villain/superstar Sidney Crosby, visit the Garden for the first time.
Boston vs. New York Rangers (Nov. 29)
A Cup rematch with Chicago won’t come until after New Year’s, so this NBC rivalry will have to suffice until then.