In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, the Bruins came up just short of winning their second Stanley Cup championship in three years. Following the year, there was some notable turnover in personnel, including the departures of Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, and Andrew Ference, along with additions such as Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson.
Heading into the 2013-14 campaign, here are the 10 most important players whose play will be crucial to the Bruins quest for their third Stanley Cup Final appearance in the past four seasons.
10. Johnny Boychuk
Boychuk will be spending time this season as one of the leaders of a much younger defense than the Bruins have had in the past. With Andrew Ference now in Edmonton, Boychuk will have to take the lead in helping young defensemen Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, and Matt Bartkowski adjust to playing full-time in the NHL.
After scoring just one goal in the 2012-13 regular season, Boychuk took off in the playoffs, scoring six to go along with his plus-4 rating.
Boychuk’s continued growth as a veteran leader on a younger defense will be another key in helping the Bruins to a successful 2013-14 campaign.
9. Brad Marchand
Marchand has made great strides since he won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins as a rookie in 2010-11, and has developed into one of the Bruins most reliable scorers. Leading the team in goals and assists in 2012-13, Marchand has developed a chemistry with Patrice Bergeron that has helped them through playing with three different right wings over the past three seasons.
Marchand is looking forward to what newcomer Loui Eriksson can bring to the Bruins’ second line, and the four-year veteran will try to continue to evolve into one of the league’s most electric scorers.
8. Dennis Seidenberg
Arguably the Bruins best defender after Zdeno Chara, Seidenberg’s play has been critical in helping the Bruins make the deep postseason runs that they have had in recent years. The key to success in coach Claude Julien’s system is a strong defense that shuts down other teams scoring opportunities, and that is where Seidenberg succeeds.
After recording a plus-12 rating in the run to the Stanley Cup in 2011, Seidenberg had a tougher 2013 playoffs, seemingly losing a step and holding just a plus-1 rating. It will be important for Seidenberg to regain his 2011 postseason form if the Bruins want to make another deep playoff push in 2013-14.
7. Jarome Iginla
After famously spurning the Bruins by vetoing a trade and accepting one to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline last season, Iginla made the decision to sign with the Bruins as a free agent in the offseason. Iginla has been one of the most prolific scorers of the past 15 years, and is considered by many to be a future hall of famer.
Iginla scored twice in his first preseason game with the Bruins and has shown great chemistry on the ice with linemates David Krejci and Milan Lucic. The Bruins lost high scoring forward Nathan Horton to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the offseason, and the team hopes Iginla can pick up where Horton left off in keeping the first line running like a well-oiled machine.
6. Loui Eriksson
One of the most controversial moves made by Bruins management over the offseason was trading former No. 2 overall pick Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars. Seguin was regarded as the Bruins’ best young star, but the team thought it had not seen enough progress from Seguin and decided to go in a different direction.
The most prominent player arriving from Dallas in that trade was winger Loui Eriksson. Eriksson has been compared favorably to Patrice Bergeron in his abilities not only as an offensive forward, but also as a strong defender, a combination that should fit Claude Julien’s system well.
5. Milan Lucic
Heading into his seventh season as a Bruin, Milan Lucic has taken a greater role in leadership than he had in the past. Though still only 25, Lucic is one of the Bruins’ veteran leaders on and off the ice. He has also been one of the most productive Bruins over the past few seasons, playing on the top line with David Krejci and Nathan Horton, who left after the season.
After a slow start to the 2013 season, Lucic caught fire going in the playoffs, scoring seven goals and 12 assists in the Bruins run to the Stanley Cup Final.
4. David Krejci
Recently named an alternate captain for the 2013-14 season, Krejci was the leading scorer on both Bruins teams that reached the Stanley Cup Final. Krejci’s importance to the Bruins was prominently displayed in the 2010 playoffs, when a broken wrist forced him to miss the final four games of the Eastern Conference semifinal against the Flyers and the Bruins lost four straight games after winning the first three.
Krejci’s high production with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton on the Bruins’ first line has been paramount for the past few seasons, and with Horton now in Columbus and Jarome Iginla ready to take over his spot on right wing, Krejci’s leadership will take on a new level that will test the center in trying to help bring the Bruins back to the Stanley Cup Final.
3. Tuukka Rask
Once Conn Smythe winning goaltender Tim Thomas decided to leave the Bruins for a year off following 2012, the Bruins made it clear that Tuukka Rask would be the team’s goaltender of the future. Rask had had some experience as the Bruins starter – filling in after Thomas was injured in 2010 – but this was the first time that Rask would be the undisputed starter.
The Finnish goaltender flourished in the 2013 season, going 19-10-5 in 34 starts with a goals-against average of 2.00.
In the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, he was even better, posting a 14-8 record with a 1.88 GAA, including a dominant Eastern Conference Finals in which he allowed just two goals in four games to the top-seeded and electric Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rask signed an eight-year, $56 million contract this past offseason, further showing Boston’s commitment to keeping Rask as its franchise goaltender for a long time.
2. Zdeno Chara
Signed as a free agent in 2006, Zdeno Chara was immediately named captain of the Bruins, a title he has held for the past eight seasons. One of the biggest players in NHL history, Chara has been a shut-down defenseman for his entire career in Boston.
He has had accumulated a career +/- of 163, and also holds the record for the fastest shot recorded in league history. He has used that powerful slap shot to tally 144 goals and 334 assists.
Consistently ranked as one of the NHL’s best defenseman, he won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman in 2009, and was named a finalist in 2011 and 2012. The Slovakian captained the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup, becoming the second European captain to win the Cup, and the first from a country formerly behind the “Iron Curtain’’ of the Soviet Union.
1. Patrice Bergeron
Ever since trading captain Joe Thornton in 2005-06, the Bruins have made a commitment to build the team around their most promising star: Patrice Bergeron. That strategy has paid off, as Bergeron has become the unquestioned leader of the offense, and adding players and implementing ideas to compliment his skills has led to six straight playoff appearances, three division titles, two conference championships, and one Stanley Cup.
In his nine-year career, Bergeron has scored 153 goals and 280 assists and has a career +/- of 70. Noted as one of the best two-way players in the NHL, Bergeron won the Selke Trophy for the league’s best defensive forward in 2011-12, and was a finalist this past season.