The Boston Bruins have made the playoffs for the seventh straight season and have won the President’s Trophy for having the most points in the league. Their playoff series with the Detroit Red Wings does not start until Friday, so it is the perfect time to look back on the season and see how the Bruins were able to make it to the playoffs once again.
There are many reasons why teams do and do not make the playoffs, and the biggest reason is one that the team has the least control over, injuries. Each year there are multiple teams that can point to a key player or players going down for an extended amount of time as to why they were not more successful throughout the season. Although the Bruins did have some players go down during the season, they were injuries the team could have overcome.
Clearly, the biggest injury the team had to deal with was losing Dennis Seidenberg to a torn ACL and MCL in a game on Dec. 27 against the Ottawa Senators. A team losing their second-best defenseman for a majority of the season is one of those severe injuries to a key player that could be the difference between a team making or missing the playoffs. The Bruins however were not one of those team’s because they had a number of ways to make up for the loss of Seidenberg.
Excellent goaltending, clutch goal scoring, and a great defensive structure are all reasons why the Bruins were able to survive one of their key players going down to injury. Goaltending is the second biggest reason why Boston made the playoffs.
It is rare to find a playoff team that has poor goaltending. Sure it happens, but those cases are the exception, not the rule. Having an exceptional goalie goes a long way in helping a team make the postseason. A team that pairs an excellent starting goalie with a solid backup, more times than not, will be one of the better teams in the league. The Bruins this year had one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL.
Tuukka Rask is a front-runner for the Vezina and for good reason. Rask is in the top-five among goalies in goals-against average, save percentage, and wins. His backup, Chad Johnson, ranks sixth in goals-against and save percentage. The surprisingly good play of Johnson this season has been almost as important as the play of Rask. Early in the season Rask was on pace for an extremely high number of games played, but the emergence of Johnson allowed coach Claude Julien to give Rask games off throughout the season, keeping him well rested.
On many nights, the play of the Boston goaltenders were the reason the team was able to win games. On the rare occasion that either Rask or Johnson had a poor performance, the Bruins ability to get scoring from all four lines and their defensemen helped them outscore the opponent.
Historically, the coach Julien led Bruins have left their marks on games by wearing down opponents with their physical style of play and excellent defense. They have not typically been known for outscoring many opponents. This year however, they are ranked third in the league in goals scored per game. Ranking third in the league without having a player in the top-15 in goals scored is impressive, and it is possible because they are able to get scoring production from their entire roster.
The Bruins have 10 players with at least 10 goals, including two defensemen. Eight of the nine players in Boston’s top-three lines have 10 or more goals. It is that scoring depth that has the Bruins averaging over three goals a game. A team going into the season known for their defense is now one of the league’s best scoring teams heading into the playoffs.
There is no doubt the Bruins are one of the favorites to win the Stanley Cup going into the playoffs because of their excellent regular season. Boston has gotten outstanding goaltending from both their starter and backup. Although Johnson will hopefully not play much in the playoffs, his work in the regular season has helped to keep Rask fresh as the team enters the postseason.
The Bruins also enter the playoffs as one of the deepest teams in the NHL with the ability to get scoring from all four lines and their blue line. That depth will be tested throughout the playoffs, and if the Bruins hope to make another deep Stanley Cup run that depth will be a huge factor.