Boston Bruins: Labeled as Dark Horse, Team Finds Motivation


The Boston Bruins have taken an uncanny beating this offseason, whether it derived from the press, the front office, or the injury bug. It has been a mantra that is carrying over into the start of the regular season.

Here is a team that was once lauded for its ability to play a consistent, crisp brand of hockey.

That may not be the case to start the season, at least, with a defense that is crumbling with injuries, most notably to Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, who will not return for the next eight weeks roughly. Chara, on the contrary, was placed on retroactive injured reserve, subsequently allowing him to return for opening night on Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets.

Yet Chara’s resurgence to the lineup will not alleviate all of Boston’s woes.

They are still paced to flank Chara with either Torey Krug or Adam McQuaid, consequently causing a ripple effect of depth struggles down their defensive core. Most importantly, if Chara is unable gear up for Thursday evening, Krug and McQuaid will cede their bottom-tier roles for top-two positions respectively.

The Bruins are still searching for a backup goaltender to ease Tuukka Rask’s workload. They have altered their defensive breakouts to mesh well against faster defenses by incorporating a fourth attacker. They are also still pondering what to make of their fourth line.

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With all these questions, the media and Vegas have not been favorable towards the 2011 Stanley Cup champions.

For instance, Michael Felger’s latest column was entitled “Bruins have blown their championship window”. The Boston Globe’s headline ran “Bruins are in the unfamiliar role of underdogs”. Vegas gives the Bruins 40/1 odds of winning the Cup in the 2015-16 season. That’s behind teams such as the Stars (35/1), the Senators (35/1), Winnipeg (27/1), and Columbus (25/1) just to name a few.

While it appears the odds makers and pundits alike see the Bruins as a dark horse, the team is utilizing the noise as motivation.

“I think it’s exciting, to be honest,” Krug told The Boston Globe. “And the best part about it is people kind of count us out and say we don’t have the tools to become a winning team, a playoff team, and to cause some ruckus. I think it’s exciting to be in that role once again.”

As it stands, Boston is foreseen as a team on the playoff bubble already in October. Winger Brad Marchand was vociferous in pointing out teams such as L.A. have made the trek through the playoffs as underdogs.

“Bubble, yeah,” said Marchand. “But then again, as long as you come in in the top eight, that’s all that matters. Look at LA, right? Finished eighth and they win [the Cup in 2012]. So, just got to get in the playoffs.”

The Bruins themselves, undoubtedly, expect great things entering this year’s campaign. They are looking for healthy bodies on offense, most notably David Krejci, to remain healthy. They anticipate great things from the second-year right winger David Pastrnak as he begins to morph into a team leader.

Guys such as Krug touched on the team’s complacency with winning games and reaching the playoffs consistently until, most notably, this past season.

That will not be the case this year with this group of players. They will have to earn each win, never expecting the inevitable win. While the front office may be playing a game of charades with the future of Claude Julien, the coach depends on the players to ensure he remains coach for the entirety of the season.

As Krug alluded to reporters, this is a group that has moved in a new direction with new focus.

“Right now we don’t have any choice except to make sure we’re changing things”.

Follow Christopher Bokum on Twitter @ChrisBokum

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