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May 16, 2018
By Jesse Gaunce

They weren’t supposed to be in this spot. Not this year.

Despite a ride to the playoffs that may someday rival Morgan Magic (Google that if you don’t know what it is. Really fun stuff) in 2016-2017 under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, many were not convinced the Boston Bruins would be more than a bubble playoff team again in 2017-2018, if they even made the playoffs at all with him as the full-time bench boss.

And with an influx of young talent at key positions, it wasn’t crazy to think the Bruins would struggle.

What no one saw coming, however, was a 112-point season that ended in a second-round series loss to the rival Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins smashed pre-season expectations. But as it often happens, expectations changed, which makes losing in the second round a tough pill to swallow.

Boston’s unexpected regular season dominance had many, including myself, believing they were capable of winning the Stanley Cup. They started the season pretty slowly, but they didn’t let that define the type of team they were. What truly defined them was their heart and ability to get back into a game no matter how many goals they trailed by or how much time was left. They played with that “it” factor that many championship teams have.

Much of that swagger came from their youth. Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Ryan Donato and others played critical roles in the Black and Gold’s success, which has general manager Don Sweeney looking like the genius we never knew he was.

The Bruins also saw big years from the guys you would expect: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all had 30-plus goal seasons and established themselves as the best first line in the NHL. They also saw solid contributions from second line stalwart David Krejci, David Backes, Riley Nash (who you could argue was one of their best players all year), and even fourth line guys like Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari.

Defensively, Zdeno Chara seemed to have a renaissance, Kevan Miller improved upon his solid 2016-2017 season, Matt Gryzelcyk was a nice surprise, Torey Krug proved yet again to be an offensive sparkplug, and Brandon Carlo and Adam McQuaid were solid when needed.

Many will tell you the goaltending wasn’t good, but it was. After a tough start to the year, Tuukka Rask rounded into form and at one point, the guys on The Spoked B Podcast and I began to wonder if he should have been in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy. His backup, Anton Khudobin, provided the kind of relief that Rask needed to be effective for a full season.

Everything seemed to break right for Boston at every turn until they ran into Tampa. What that series proved is that the Bruins are not yet true Stanley Cup contenders, but they aren’t far off. The Bruins will need to tweak a few things and add some players that make them a little faster and more physical, but overall, Bruins fans should be very optimistic about this team’s future. This was one of the most fun Bruins teams I’ve ever watched, and I know I’m not alone when I say that.

The youth is legit and there is more to come. The veteran core is still very good despite some of its age. The coach proved he is the right guy for the job. This team is going to get better each and every season. The window to win a Stanley Cup is open once again, and it should be open for quite a while.

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