The Boston Bruins should be expected to win the Stanley Cup this postseason.
Let’s repeat that again for the peeps in the cheap seats: The Boston Bruins should win the Stanley Cup this spring.
It’s an odd, welcome development given how much of the season was spent resigned to running into a second round buzz-saw with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but Stanley Cup playoff truth has been much stranger than anybody could have imagined. The four top seeds have all been eliminated in the first round for the first time in NHL history with the Lightning, Washington Capitals, Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames all now making tee times.
The Capitals were the one remaining team that would have posed major problems for the Bruins should they make it to the Conference fFnals, but now they’ll be facing the winner of Hurricanes-Islanders. Certainly both upstart teams deserve to be there at this point, but the Bruins should take care of business against either one of those two.
That means the Bruins will be favored in every single playoff series from here on out, they will enjoy home-ice advantage against any other team for the rest of the playoffs, and they are better than every other team still left in the Stanley Cup playoff field. By all rights the Bruins' pathway to the Stanley Cup Final has opened wide with the way things have shockingly played out, and the San Jose Sharks are the only team left in the West that passes the smell test as a legit Cup contender.
It also helps that the Bruins are relatively healthy to start the second round of the playoffs against the Blue Jackets, with Kevan Miller as the only player not expected to be ready to go. Sure it’s appeared that some key B’s players -- like Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Torey Krug for instance -- have looked like they’re playing through something, but they will have something close to their lineup intact as they ready for Columbus tonight at TD Garden.
“You’re crossing your fingers. We’ve felt that we’ve certainly tested our depth throughout the season. We’ve felt that we have players that could step up. You want your best players [to be healthy], but the war of attrition is what it is,” said Don Sweeney, when asked about the good health for his club. “It’s going to exist as you go along in the playoffs, and we missed Kevan. He’s a big part of our hockey club. Other guys have stepped up. We have some guys that have some things that are dinged up, but they’re going to play through those things. They’ve always had a next-man up approach from our coaching staff through our players.”
Certainly the Bruins aren’t going to get caught looking ahead to a playoff path that’s remarkably clear after the first round. They underestimated the Maple Leafs as a first-round opponent a couple of weeks ago and ended up getting dragged into a seven-game series when they weren’t at playoff-level to start Game 1. The Bruins won’t be making the same mistake this time around against a Blue Jackets team that hasn’t played in nine days.
As the first round developed, it also became apparent that whoever advanced from the Bruins/Leafs series was going to be in a prime postseason spot.
The Bruins are the clear favorite to win the Stanley Cup entering the second round of the playoffs. It would now be a bitter disappointment and an opportunity wasted if they can't take advantage of the way things have unfolded.
Clearly there should be some trepidation given what’s happened to all of the rest of the top teams in the Stanley Cup Playoffs field, but the Bruins' path to Cup glory is as clear and wide open as it’s ever been in their franchise history.