Countless story lines emerge over the course of a season, and they all get woven together to create the finished product, for better or worse. Before the Bruins embark on their quest for another Stanley Cup championship, let’s take a look at the most critical things that defined the team in the 2013-14 season.
Reilly Smith’s emergence
Considered by some to be a throw-in to complete the Tyler Seguin trade last summer, Smith proved to be anything but an afterthought, turning in his best season in the NHL. He scored 20 goals and had a 51-point season skating alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Smith was named the team’s Seventh Player Award winner.
Twelve-game win streak
After dropping their first two games after the Olympics break, fans worried the Bruins might not regain the momentum they had when the Olympics began. But starting March 2 with a 6-3 win over the Rangers, the Bruins posted 12 straight victories and looked invincible, scoring 47 goals and allowing only 17 in that stretch.
A loss to the Canadiens that snapped the 12-game win streak on March 24 didn’t disrupt the team’s overall mojo. The Bruins got right back on the horse and reeled off three more wins – including a shutout of the defending champion Blackhawks – to finish the jam-packed month in the thick of the race for the Presidents’ Trophy, which they won by a point over the Ducks.
The Thornton incident
The lowlight of the season, to be sure, came when enforcer Shawn Thornton slew-footed the Penguins’ Brooks Orpik to the ice and punched him in the head twice, an ugly incident that was national news. Thornton was upset over a hit Orpik put on the Bruins’ Loui Eriksson that resulted in a concussion and Orpik subsequently declining an invitation to fight. Thornton was suspended 15 games, and Orpik was hospitalized with a concussion. Thornton expressed remorse, but the incident will follow him for the rest of his career.
Dennis Seidenberg injury
The Bruins were hit with a number of injuries this season, but none was bigger than Dennis Seidenberg suffering an ACL and MCL tear in his right knee Dec. 27 vs. Ottawa. Seidenberg averaged 21:50 of ice time in the 34 games he played, and was one of the team’s most dependable players in the playoffs, when he was usually paired with captain Zdeno Chara as the team’s shutdown defensive pairing. There was talk of a potential return late in the playoffs, but it appears unlikely.
Bruins shine in Olympics
The Bruins were not just well-represented in Sochi, they played key roles in the outcome of the Olympics hockey tournament. Patrice Bergeron and Canada won gold over Loui Eriksson and Sweden, and by the gold-medal game, Bergeron had emerged as one of Canada’s top players. Goalie Tuukka Rask led Finland to the bronze over the United States.
Tuukka Rask’s shutouts
The Bruins’ starting goalie led the NHL in shutouts with seven, and showed why the Bruins invested in him with an eight-year, $56 million contract. Among the league leaders in nearly all stats categories, Rask is a leading contender for the Vezina Trophy, and also a big reason the Bruins are the leading contender to win it all.
Jarome Iginla is March’s NHL star of month
The likely Hall of Famer’s decision to join the Penguins at last season’s trade deadline instead of the Bruins brought snickers from the Black and Gold faithful after the Bruins swept the Penguins in the conference finals last season. But fans welcomed him to Boston as a free agent acquisition in the offseason, a move that paid off big-time. He tied for the team lead in goals with 30, scoring 13 of them during the Bruins’ red-hot March. Five of his March goals were game-winners.
Standing pat at trade deadline
Only making a minor acquisitions – defenseman Andrej Meszaros via trade and defenseman Corey Potter off waivers – at the March 5 trade deadline didn’t sit well with some fans who were eager for a bigger splash to replace the injured Dennis Seidenberg, especially in the playoffs. But GM Peter Chiarelli built the Bruins to be ready to contend as-is, and the results in March and subsequent Presidents’ Trophy proved him right.
Five 20-goal scorers
Sure, Tyler Seguin had 37 goals and was fourth in the NHL in points, but the Stars were the last team to make the Western Conference playoffs while the team that traded him away seemed to have its playoff ticket punched by January. That’s because of its balance, led by 20-goal seasons from Jarome Iginla, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, and Reilly Smith. Add 19 from David Krejci – who generally scores more in the playoffs – and 17 from Zdeno Chara, and the Bruins boasted a deep lineup that gives opponents few breaks.
Position switch for Carl Soderberg
Moving Carl Soderberg from left wing to center began on Jan. 25 to fill gaps left by Chris Kelly and Ryan Spooner, but resulted in a full-time switch that saw him score 10 goals and have 15 assists since. His entire line has improved with the switch and become much more dangerous offensively. The third line gives the Bruins a significant advantage against Detroit in the playoffs.
Surviving the injury bug
Beyond the major injury to Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins constantly dealt with medical issues that kept the Providence-to-Boston pipeline a busy route. Johnny Boychuk had a back injury, Loui Eriksson and Daniel Paille had multiple concussions, Chris Kelly suffered a broken leg, and there were many other issues. But the Bruins still managed 117 points, and no losing streaks of more than two games.