When it comes to this year’s shortened NHL season, it is easy to see who the elite teams in the league are.
Without a doubt, the Chicago Blackhawks are the cream of the crop. The team has only lost two games in the regular season and has been the league’s most consistent team all season long.
There are also teams like the Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins that have all been extremely impressive this season. These teams can score, use their speed to create offence and win hockey games in many different ways.
With all of that said, however, there is one team that is built to beat all of them. This team, folks, is the Boston Bruins.
The Bruins are fourth in the Eastern Conference with 37 points, just one point behind the Eastern Conference-leading Canadiens.
The Bruins have what it takes to win the Stanley Cup this year for three reasons: they have a balanced offence, they play a physical brand of hockey and great goaltending.
Let's examine these three reasons further:
In today's NHL, it is not enough to have one line or a few superstars that can put the puck in the net.
To succeed in the NHL today, a team needs to be able to roll out three lines that can produce. The Bruins have a team that can do that.
For starters, the Bruins have four forwards with at least 20 points. This club includes Patrice Bergeron (six goals and 16 assists for 22 points), David Krejci (six goals and 14 assists for 20 points), Brad Marchand (12 goals and nine assists for 21 points) and Tyler Seguin (11 goals and nine assists for 20 points).
One should note that two big offensive players for the Bruins are not even included with the above mentioned players. Both Nathan Horton (seven goals and five assists for 12 points) and Milan Lucic (four goals and 10 assists for 14 points) have struggled this season.
The team can also get offence from guys like Daniel Paille (five goals and four assists for nine points), Rich Peverley (three goals and five assists for eight points), and Chris Kelly (two goals and four assists for six points).
This is a team that can roll three to four lines with the best of them.
Physical Brand of Hockey
When it comes to old time hockey, the Bruins play it better than anyone else in the league.
For starters, Lucic is not afraid to hit or throw them down with anyone in the league. He leads the team with 57 minutes in penalties and as the games get tougher, so does Lucic.
Of course, one cannot forget about team captain Zdeno Chara. Big "Z" is one of the most physically imposing NHLers as he can take the puck away with his long reach or put players on the ice with a big body check. Chara is tied for third on the team with 39 penalty minutes.
As a whole, the Bruins' lineup is a physical one and is a team that will punish their opponent on a nightly basis, even if it is in a losing effort.
When former Bruins' netminder Tim Thomas decided to take a year off, Tuukka Rask took it upon himself to show that not only could he be the team's starter for the future, but that he could be just as good, if not better, than Thomas.
This is not the first time Rask has had the starting position. For a big part of the 2009-10 season, the net belonged to Rask and with good reason as he went 22-12 with a 1.97 GAA, a .931 save percentage and five shutouts.
Believe it or not, the 26-year-old Finnish netminder has been even better this season. In 18 games, Rask has 13 wins (first in the league as of this writing), has posted a 1.96 GAA (fourth in the league), and has a .927 save percentage (fifth in the league) to go along with two shutouts.
Rask is young, agile, has played well in the postseason before and is backing up a Bruins' team that is much better than it was in 2009-10. This season, at least, the sky is the limit for the Rask.
While the Bruins still have 24 games left to play and a lot can happen from now until the end of the regular season, it is easy to see that this Bruins' hockey team has the makeup of a Cup winner.