All eyes will be on the Boston Bruins this coming season as they look to defend the Stanley Cup. Most fans and analysts did not consider the Bruins to be a favorite for the Cup when the playoffs began last season. Two of Boston's playoff series leading up to the Cup went seven games and there were many games that the team was not expected to win. It is commonly known that repeat championships are one of the most difficult feats in all of professional team sports. Can the Bruins win the Stanley Cup again in the 2011-2012 season?
The Best Players of Last Season
Goalies: You don't win the Stanley Cup without a great goalie, or in the Bruin's case; two goalies. Tim Thomas played most games in front of the net (57) and had a Goals Against Average of exactly 2. Backup Goalie Tuukka Rask played in 29 games and had a save percentage of almost 92%. The Bruins will have both goalies back for the '11-'12 season and Thomas will probably get even more playing time.
Offense: Milan Lucic (pictured), David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Nathan Horton account for a great deal of the Bruins scoring depth. One of the Bruins biggest strengths last season was that they did not need to rely on one single player for scoring. Even throughout the playoffs, multiple members of the offense contributed to each win.
Defense: Zdeno Chara (the team Captain) and Adam McQuiad are the heart of the Bruins Defense, combining for a 63 +/- rating. McQuaid found the penalty box 12 times last year for fighting. Chara and fellow defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Dennis Seidenberg each played over 80 games last season.
Departures and New Faces
The Bruins did a great job of keeping the team together. They lost no significant players from last year's Stanley Cup team. All of the impact players noted above will be returning for another run at the Cup in 2011-2012. They did trade defenseman Joe Corvo for a 4th round draft pick. I thought Corvo was a good player but his loss does not represent a big dent in the team.
It also needs to be mentioned that star goalie Tim Thomas will be 37 years old. It is common for goalies to remain effective into their late thirties but Thomas has never played more than 66 games in a season and his age may cause him to tire into the playoffs if the Bruins play him more this year.
Can the Boston Bruins Win the Stanley Cup Again in 2011-2012?
The short answer is 'yes' but I would give that answer as a possibility more than a certainty. The issue is not with the Bruins themselves, but how other teams improved themselves in the off-season. The Washington Capitals had a great season last year and made some significant changes in the off-season. Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is returning this season from injury and it will be tough for any team to stop him. The Bruins will have a tough time to return to the Stanley Cup and the odds are not in their favor. The only certainty is that it will be exciting watching NHL hockey this year to see if the Boston Bruins can defend their Stanley Cup.