How do the Boston Bruins Stack Up Against the West?


It’s undeniable that the Boston Bruins have been one of the most successful hockey teams since they won the Stanley Cup in 2011. After their “hangover year” in 2011-12, the Bruins have gone to the Stanley Cup Finals again and finished with the most points in a season since Bobby Orr was on the blue line. Yet we still want more and expect more from such a sturdy, veteran-laden roster. In the past five years, the Blackhawks and Kings have both raised the cup twice and Bruins fans fully expect their team to join the club this season. So, how do the B’s stack up to these western conference powerhouses?


Forwards– The Bruins don’t have superstar level skill up front and their current system may not allow for it. Both western teams possess more elite skill guys who can skate and score better than the top Bruins. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa lead the way in Chicago while Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, and a rejuvenated Marian Gaborik helped the Kings to the top last year. Milan Lucic‘s hands of stone probably wouldn’t be on most other first lines, but this is Claude Julien‘s Boston Bruins. Balance has always been the key and it has worked out pretty well, but last season they got burnt by a faster, more skilled Montreal Canadiens team. Shawn Thornton and Jarome Iginla are gone and the team may be heading more towards skill than towards grit and balance, but will Julien budge on his system? The B’s do have two of the best all-around centers in their prime in David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron while Carl Soderberg looks ready to have a breakout year in his second full NHL season. If Loui Eriksson can stay healthy and play like he did in Dallas, this group of forwards could definitely have a different look to it than it has in years past.

Defense- Led by Big Z, Zdeno Chara, the Bruins have a deep group of defensemen to choose from for this upcoming season. Younger guys like Matt Bartkowski, Kevan Miller, and David Warsofsky can all add unique elements to the ice when called upon. Dougie Hamilton had an excellent playoffs last year and looked very confident handling the puck and driving to the net to create scoring chances and we all know what the recently re-signed (phew!) Torey Krug can do. Chara is aging though and looked clumsy at times despite finishing second in the Norris Trophy voting. Dennis Seidenberg is coming back from a serious injury which is always scary and Johnny Boychuk has had trade rumors swirling around him lately. It’s important for Dougie to continue to improve and get stronger because it may not be too long before the Bruins are relying on him to be a legitimate top-two defenseman.

Goaltending- Tuukka Rask is following the footsteps of his mentor Tim Thomas. Rask just won his first Vezina last season and should just be entering his prime. Since becoming the clear number one after Thomas left in 2012, Rask has posted a GAA of 2.00 and 2.04 during the two regular seasons and 1.88 and 1.99 in the two postseasons. His combined save percentage in those two years has been .929 in the regular season and .936 in the postseason. He’s been known to let in a softy or two, but for the most part, you can rely on Rask for two U’s, two K’s, and two points.


Forwards– As I mentioned above, the Hawks have a top-of-the-line group of forwards. Toews and Kane may be the best young duo in the game, Sharp has been a consistent 30 goal scorer, and Hossa is considered by many to be the best two-way winger in the game. Impressive young forwards like Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw add scoring depth, while newcomer Brad Richards had a promising season last year after disappearing in the 2012-13 playoffs. Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg provide a combination of skill and grit that help balance out their forward group and youngster Teuvo Teravainen could potentially be a difference maker in his rookie season. This may just be the best group of forwards in the NHL.

Defense– The Blackhawks are practically as good at D as they are up front. Norris winner? Check. Hard hitting, lockdown defender? Check. Strong bottom four? Check. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are two absolute studs and they don’t even always play against other teams’ top lines. Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson take care of that and do a fine job of it. Nick Leddy is an up-and-comer at age 23 while Michael Roszival brings 14 years of NHL experience to the table. The Blackhawks may have the best group of defensemen in the NHL, too.

GoaltendingCorey Crawford has his doubters, but he has been a well above average goalie the past few seasons. Other than a hiccup in 2011-12, Crawford has posted solid numbers, especially in his Stanley Cup winning run. His 1.84 GAA in that postseason and .932 save percentage proved that he could lead a team to a cup. Maybe he is an average goalie with a tremendous team in front of him, but if he falters, many think that Antti Raanta could be fully capable of being a number one goalie himself.


Forwards– The Kings have a similar system to the Bruins that appreciates a two-way game and puck possession. Kopitar is turning into the Bergeron of the west, but is younger and more skilled. Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter are both excellent goal scorers and skaters that have performed well in both the regular season and playoffs since being traded from Columbus (in separate years albeit). Mike Richards and Jarrett Stoll provide great depth down the middle while younger guys like Tyler Toffoli, who netted seven goals in the playoffs, should be on the rise. Captain Dustin Brown leads a tough group of bottom six forwards, such as Kyle Clifford and Dwight King. This group isn’t as strong as Chicago’s, but has found a way to incorporate new guys into the lineup that can help the team win. They value their bottom six forwards in a similar manner as Boston, but they have been performing better than, I don’t know, Chris Kelly.

Defense- Drew Doughty had a terrific postseason, but will need to bring that type of game to the regular season if he wants to be considered one of the league’s top defensemen. Doughty finished 3rd in the Norris voting in his sophomore season in 2009-10, but since then, he hasn’t cracked the top five. Jake Muzzin had a strong playoff showing as well and along with Slava Voynov and Alec Martinez, bring young talent to compliment Doughty. Robyn Regehr and Matt Greene are both in their thirties and add physicality to a young, skilled defensive group.

GoaltendingJonathan Quick didn’t stand on his head for this past Stanley Cup victory as he did for his first. Compare his 1.41 GAA to 2.58 of last year and it doesn’t sound too impressive. However, a .928 save percentage over the last three postseasons isn’t too shabby at all. He still hasn’t managed a Vezina yet, but he has been in the top ten in voting three out of the past four seasons. Martin Jones has proved to be a reliable backup too, posting four shutouts and a .934 save percentage in 19 games last year.

So how does it all boil down?


  1. Blackhawks
  2. Kings
  3. Bruins


  1. Blackhawks
  2. Bruins
  3. Kings


  1. Bruins
  2. Kings
  3. Blackhawks

The Blackhawks to me are the favorites this season barring injury. Just too many star players to handle and a great supporting cast as well. I think the Bruins are neck and neck with the Kings, but could be able to exploit their younger defense if the two were to meet in the finals. I gave the Bruins the goaltending edge, but Quick is easily capable of standing on his head at any given time. These three teams should be able to stay at the top of the league for the next several years as they all seem to be keeping their franchise players for long-term deals. Last season, I picked the Bruins to win it all and was surprised at their inability to adapt to their competition. However, this year, despite their strong chance to make it through the eastern conference, I just can’t say they would beat either of those two teams right now.