Touching All the Bases

Road to the Stanley Cup is a long journey, but Bruins are built to make it all the way


I suppose there is the opportunity for meaningful achievements on the final day of the Bruins' regular season.

It would be cool, for instance, to see Patrice Bergeron, in a season in which a stellar Olympic turn finally brought him his just due nationally, to reach the 30-goal milestone for the first time since his sophomore season of 2005-06.

But beyond any specific accomplishments worth saluting -- including locking down the President's Trophy as the team with the league's best record -- all that remains is one more mostly irrelevant game, a win in Winnepeg or a loss in Loseipeg, and then the opening act cedes the stage to the marquee draw.

The Bruins' 82-game warmup for their spring season will be complete Sunday, and soon thereafter begins something we've been waiting for since it first became evident months ago that the defending Eastern Conference were true contenders again: That long, tense journey to June, when we'll find out whether this deep and wholly likeable team will reach the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in four years.

Or, should you choose to look at it more optimistically -- and why wouldn't you? -- then the question gets a slight tweak: Will the Bruins win their second Stanley Cup in four seasons and the city's ninth major professional sports championship since February 3, 2002?

The President's Trophy is nice. It also doesn't mean a damn thing if the trophy every franchise desires ends up being hoisted after the final game's final buzzer by a captain other than Zdeno Chara. If the Bruins don't win the Stanley Cup, the President's Trophy is a mocking prize of little consolation.

One of the blessings of following this team -- the Joel Ward hangover season of 2011-12 excepted -- during the Claude Julien/Cam Neely/Peter Chiarelli era of leadership is that you know you can trust them.

Oh, sometimes they'll let one slip away -- they did it just last night against Minnesota, and in a much grander scale, during Game 6 of the Final at the Garden last June. But for the most part, this has been a remarkably trustworthy group.

They play hard, and they do it in the disciplined style of their coach blended with the tough approach of the fist-pounding former power forward on Level 9. This a great time to be a Bruins fan, not just for their success, but for the Boston-befitting way in which they succeed.

That's my usual long-winded way of saying the Bruins can do this. They are as deep at forward as they have been since, when, the late-'70s? Bergeron is a superstar. This is David Krejci's time of year. Loui Eriksson has some redemptive moments ahead. They actually have a power-play this time around. And don't look now, but Dennis Seidenberg is skating, his knee having finally regenerated, "Terminator 2"-style, back to its usual steel.

They need Rask to be brilliant -- one of the disappointments of last season's Cup Finals is that he was not better than Corey Crawford -- but he certainly has the talent and confidence to deliver.

This team isn't just a regular-season juggernaut; it is built for bigger things. Just look at how this team stacks up against the last two Bruins teams to reach the Finals:

2010-11: 46-25-11, 103 points

2012-13: 28-14-6, 62 points in a lockout-abbreviated 48-game schedule.

2013-14: 53-18-8, 114 points

2010-11: Goals: 246 (8th), Goals Against: 195 (3d) = plus-51

2012-13: Goals: 131 (11th), Goals Against: 109 (3d) = plus-22

2013-14: Goals: 254 (2d), Goals Against: 171 (2d) = plus-83 (!!!)

bergeronfinnretro49.JPGTEN-GOAL SCORERS
2010-11: Twelve. Milan Lucic led the way with 30. Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, all had more than 20.

2012-13: Seven. Brad Marchand set the pace with 18. Tyler Seguin, whose departure should not be lamented despite predictably fat scoring numbers in Dallas, had 16.

2013-14: Nine with at least 14 goals, led by Jarome Iginla's 30. (Aside: Watching his renaissance as a Bruin, where he's been a perfect fit in every sense and style, I can't help but wonder how beloved he'd be in this city had he played his whole brilliant career here. Also: Imagine Iginla and Nathan Horton on the same team.) Loui Eriksson, Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly all have nine goals, with a chance to become the 10th Bruin this season score at least 10. That's depth, Gord.

2010-11: Tim Thomas: 35-11-9, 2.00 goals-against, .938 save-percentage.

2012-13: Tuukka Rask: 19-10-5, 2.00, .929.

2013-14: Tuukka: 35-15-6, 2.06, .929

2010-11: Won three seven-game series en route to Cup victory over Vancouver. Did not pump tires.

2012-13: Lost in six games to a similar and slightly superior Blackhawks team. No shame in that. By the end. Bergeron had more broken body parts than functioning ones.

2013-14: Well, that is the question, right?

With one game remaining before the real season begins, I'm confident we're going to like the answer.

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