Even the most diehard of Bruins fans knew it was going to be nearly impossible to repeat as Stanley Cup champions in 2012 but I have to admit, it's been hard to accept that the Bruins season is over. I was hoping/expecting at least one more series.
Watching the Bruins struggle with the Capitals was another reminder that this team had serious flaws and that with injuries, those flaws were exposed by a good, not great, hockey team.
The Bruins won the 2011 Stanley Cup because three things: outstanding goal keeping by Tim Thomas, a consistently strong defensive effort, and a grinder mentality on offense that produced enough goals to win a title.
The 2012 Bruins could not match that performance. Thomas was good but not great this year. The defense was good but the loss of Andrew McQuaid before the playoffs took away a reliable defender and neither Joe Corvo or Mike Mottau could fill his void. Offensively, injuries took away Nathan Horton for the season (he joins Marc Savard on a growing list of B's that have been lost to concussions) and then limited Patrice Bergeron after Game 5. They just did not have enough this year.
Despite the loss, this team should remain in contention in the near future. There is a solid nucleus and team president Cam Neely and general manager Peter Chiarelli have proven they know how to build a hockey team that can play into June. Young star Tyler Seguin showed glimpses that he is on the verge of becoming an stud and the group of veterans surrounding him will be hungry to get back the Cup in 2013. Thomas may be at the end of his road in the NHL but Tuuka Rask is waiting and ready to take over. The team's top pick in 2012, defenseman Dougie Hamilton, could also be on the way to Boston next season to learn under Zdeno Chara.
One thing I would like to see next year from coach Claude Julien is a little more freedom for players like Seguin who need to be able to take chances to help the team score more goals. Julien's system is perfect for a team of hard working players like Milan Lucic, a forward with talent but who lacks the skills of a sniper like Rick Nash, and it has led the B's to the playoffs for five straight years but it does limit his few gifted skill players.
As for my original playoff predictions, I am down to three teams. I'm sticking with the Rangers to win the East and I'll now say that the Broadway Blueshirts will beat the L.A. Kings to win the Stanley Cup.