third time in the last six seasons that the trophy was awarded to a Boston Bruins goalie. Rask led the league in shutouts (7) for the second consecutive season and he was second in save percentage (.930) and 4th in goals against average (2.04). Rask was even better in the playoffs where he lowered his goals against average to 1.99, the lowest among goalies with more than five starts. Last year’s backup, Chad Johnson, signed with the New York Islanders in the offseason. It’ll be up to Swedish goaltender Niklas Svedberg, the 2012-13 AHL Most Outstanding Goaltender, to handle the backup duties. Svedberg has appeared in just on NHL game in his career, a 3-2 OT win over the Predators in which he made 33 saves. Power Play A major goal for the Bruins heading into last season was to improve their power play. They finished the 2012-13 season ranked 26th in the league, scoring on just 14.8 percent of their man advantages. That came on the heels of a dreadful postseason where they scored just two goals in 23 opportunities. Like most of their offense, things were completely different in 2013- 14. The Bruins raised their power-play percentage to 21.7 percent, which was good for third in the NHL. They were even better in the playoffs, converting on 26.5 percent of their chances. Chara used his massive frame to his advantage by firing pucks from the point and scoring ten of his 17 goals with the man advantage. The team also got contributions throughout the lineup. Their 50 power-play goals came from twelve different players, including seven from Bergeron and six from Smith. Penalty Kill With a team full of quality defenders and two-way forwards, it’s no surprise that the Bruins were strong on the penalty kill once again. Tuukka Rask Brian Babineau/NHL/Getty Images During the regular season, they killed off 220 of 263 penalties and their 83.7 penalty kill percentage ranked eighth in the NHL and almost all of their penalty killers return this season. Chara and Boychuck are the team’s first line of defense along with a rotation of forwards Bergeron, Marchand, Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly. The Bruins were even stronger on the penalty kill in the playoff, which was more impressive considering the number of penalties they drew and key injuries to Paille and Kelly. They were short handed 71 times in 22 playoff games, 19 more than any other Eastern Conference team, and they still managed to kill off 88.7 percent of them. A big part of that was the increased play of Krejci and Justin Florek “We take a lot of pride in our penalty kill and so far it’s been working,” said Rask, “It’s a huge thing throughout the season and especially in the playoffs, you need to have good special teams in order to move forward.” Three Questions 1. Can the Bruins translate regular season success into the playoffs? Despite being the best team in the Eastern Conference all season long, the Bruins were eliminated by their long-time foe, and fellow original-six team, the Montreal Canadiens in the second round. It was a disappointing finish that should motivate the Bruins, who will head into this season as the favorites in the East. 2. Who will replace Jerome Iginla’s production on offense? Iginla infamously spurned the Bruins in 2012, but he was welcomed to Boston with open arms in 2013. His 30 goals tied for the team lead, but now the veteran has moved on. It will be up to longtime Bruins Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand to step up. The team will also hope that Loui Eriksson can return to his 70-point form. It’s unlikely that the Bruins will match last year’s offense without making a move for another forward. 3. What will the Bruins do at the back end of their defensive rotation? The Bruins have plenty of defensive talent so it won’t be surprising to see them trade one of their surplus defenders. Adam McQuaid adds a physical spark to the third unit that should give him an inside shot at the job, but an injury-riddled 2013 and impending free agency could make him expendable. Prediction With a great collection of two-way forwards, one of the best defenders in the league and the defending Vezina Trophy winner, the Bruins are the clear-cut favorites in the East. Things should be a bit more difficult than last season, but it’s up to the rest of the conference to play catch up.
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