I know what you’re thinking: “How can you say that Boston’s not gonna win the Stanley Cup this year? They’re loaded everywhere!” You’ll see why as I explain how Boston will fall short this season.
Let’s start by giving the Bruins their flowers this season. 65 wins and 135 points in a single season is nothing to scoff at. In fact, Boston’s had the best record in the NHL since January 1st, 2022 with a record of 102-28-8 (212 points). The closest competitor in that span? The Colorado Avalanche with a record of 89-35-12 (190 points).
As you can see, Boston’s dominance stems beyond this season. They’ve kicked tushies left and right, leaving destruction in their wake to the tune of the Dropkick Murphys.
It helps to have a Vezina favorite in Linus Ullmark and David Pastrnak emerging as a superstar. As a result, the Bruins are the prohibitive favorites to hoist Lord Stanley during the summer. However, let me explain why that’ll be just a dream for Bostonians in the summer.
Believe it or not, Boston’s not entirely perfect as a team. In fact, they’ve accumulated the eighth-most penalty minutes this season (861). That’s not good news for a team trying to pull off a historic season.
That’s especially true when playing against solid teams like New Jersey, New York, and Toronto. If you take a bad penalty late in the game, it’ll cause an array of problems, even costing them the series. Just ask the 2018-2019 Vegas Golden Knights.
Vegas had a 3-0 lead in their Game 7 matchup that year against San Jose, only to allow four power play goals in the third period. As a result, they lost in overtime and lost the series to the Sharks. This could’ve been prevented if Vegas played smarter hockey, starting with Cody Eakin not cross-checking Joe Pavelski.
The Challenge of Sustainability
It’s impossible for a record-breaking team to sustain their level of play during the postseason. For the Wings, it was the hit on Kris Draper that spelled doom for them against the Avalanche. For the Lightning, it was looking past the Blue Jackets, only to get swept.
It isn’t just the NHL where it’s tough to pull off, though. It’s all sports. The 2001 Seattle Mariners fell apart against the Yankees in the ALCS. The 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors were doomed when Draymond Green decided to go after Lebron’s family jewels. The 2007 Patriots couldn’t figure out a solid Giants pass rush in the Super Bowl.
For the NHL, it’s especially daunting because of the game’s physicality. Teams are subjected to brutal hits and checks, wearing players down in the process. Trying to maintain such a level of play for eight months can break a team down.
You also have to account for injuries playing a major role. Losing a player to an injury can instantly derail a team’s hopes of being the best ever. That’s also true regarding suspensions, which was the case for Green against the Cavaliers.
It’ll be challenging for Boston to keep up their record pace much longer. Whether it’s in the Stanley Cup Final or in the Eastern Conference Final, the B’s have a tough road ahead, especially since the Eastern Conference is never a cakewalk.
The Power Play Could Be Better
When the Bruins are on the power play, it leaves a bit to be desired. Granted, they finished 12th in power play percentage (22.2). However, they stand to do better, specifically in the playoffs.
When San Jose was gifted a major from Vegas in Game 7 of the 2018-2019 playoffs, they capitalized on it. It’s what helped the Sharks get past the Golden Knights for that round.
It’s not to say that the Bruins are awful on the power play. In fact, they’re pretty good. However, seizing as many opportunities as you can is vital to winning the Stanley Cup. If Boston’s power play doesn’t improve, then it’s lights out on the historic season.
Which Teams Can Take Boston Down?
There are some teams equipped for taking down these Bruins. Whether they can outsmart the Bruins or have that one superstar, this group can end Boston’s historic run. Just who’s this motley crew of squads ready to hoist the Cup?
Not only do the Oilers have the best hockey player in Connor McDavid, but they have the best power play in the NHL. With a percentage of 32.4% on the man advantage this year, it’s easy to see why they’re a threat. Given Boston’s woes in the penalty box, Edmonton can capitalize and easily swing the momentum in their favor.
The fact that Edmonton boasts both McDavid and Draisaitl on the same team will cause nightmares for Bruins fans. Throw in improved defense and you could have a historic season crashing down.
Many people are high on the Avalanche to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. In fact, many people are predicting they’ll move on against the Kraken in the first round. For more on Back Sports Page’s first-round picks, you can check them out here.
The defending champs are getting healthy at the right time, retaining Nathan Mackinnon and Artturi Lehkonen. Not only that, but Cale Makar is returning as well. A star-studded lineup like this can go toe-to-toe with the Bruins in a long series.
New Jersey Devils
Did I mention that New Jersey’s one of the most disciplined teams in the NHL? They’ve only gotten 273 penalties this season, which is a testament to playing smart hockey. Outsmarting the Bruins can be easy for a team like the Devils, especially if they stay out of the penalty box.
New York Rangers
You can also say this about the Rangers since they tend to stay out of the penalty box. Gerard Gallant tends to get the most out of veteran-led teams, which is what New York is. As long as he makes the necessary changes and doesn’t outsmart himself, New York can win.
Don’t forget that Igor Shesterkin can steal a series himself. That’s what happened last season when the Russian goaltender carried the Rangers on his back. Shesterkin can go toe-to-toe with Ullmark and tip the scales in New York’s favor.
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