Winning divisional titles is a common trend in Boston Bruins franchise history. In the past five seasons, the Bruins have been divisional champions three times (2008-09, 2010-11, 2011-12).
The realignment of the NHL to Atlantic, Central, Metropolitan, and Pacific has forced more compacted and difficult divisions. Previously, there were six divisions holding five teams. Now, with only four divisions, seven or eight teams compete in the division. The Atlantic Division consists of the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Bruins have tasted victory when competing in conference and Stanley Cup championships in the past three seasons. In the 2011 and 2013 playoffs, the Bruins advanced to the Stanley Cup after successfully winning in the Eastern Conference finals. Unlike the 2013 postseason, the 2011 playoffs brought Boston the cup. As the 2013-14 season quickly approaches, there is no doubt that the team is ready to capture another division championship.
Although losing Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton could be detrimental to the Bruins offense, the additions of Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson will provide positive results. Fans will see a newer and more impressive offense come October, indicating the start of the regular season. Returning forwards include Assistant Captain Patrice Bergeron, Gregory Campbell, Assistant Captain Chris Kelly, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton.
A player’s plus/minus is extremely essential to the team’s welfare. The higher plus/minus a player has means the team is flourishing. Last season, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were ranked in the top 10 players with the highest plus/minus in the NHL. Bergeron had a +24 and Marchand had a +23 while Dennis Seidenberg was a close No. 14 with a +18. Pavel Datsyuk, a Detroit Red Wing, was the only other player from the new Atlantic Division in the top 10.
Which team(s) will pose the biggest threat to the Bruins’ run at the Atlantic Division title?
Fellow Original Six team, the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators will be the only two teams capable of clouding the Bruins from capturing the title. Last season the Bruins fell one point shy to the Canadiens, who collected the Northeast Division title. The speed and tenacity of P.K. Subban on the defense will limit Bruins offenders. The Senators never won the Northeast Division title between the 2006-07 and 2012-13 seasons. Amongst those seven seasons, Ottawa fell short of the title, earning runner-up champions, four times. The intensity and relentless fore-check that Mika Zibanejad and Kyle Turris offer on the offense will be a major reason why the Bruins defense struggle when facing off against the Senators
Sure, other Original Six teams like the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs will pose a large obstacle, but not as strong as Ottawa and Montreal.
Clearly, both the Senators and Canadiens, with their rich years of rivalry against the Bruins, show the highest chance of stopping the Bruins from collecting the Atlantic Division title.