As part of our Bruins season preview, we asked our hockey writers -- James Murphy and Joe McDonald -- to answer six burning questions on the 2011 Bruins. Below are their responses.
1. What will the Bruins' final record and point total be? And where will they finish in the Northeast and in the Eastern Conference?
MURPHY: The Bruins will finish with 106 points at 48-24-10 and finish second in the Eastern Conference and first in the Northeast Division. The Sabres will challenge them for the division crown but the Bruins will win the division for the third time in the last four seasons. The Canadiens will be third, Maple Leafs fourth and Senators fifth.
McDONALD: The Bruins will finish 47-23-12 with 106 points and first in the Northeast and second in the conference.
2. The performance of _______ will be the biggest surprise for the Bruins this season.
MURPHY: The performance of Tuukka Rask will be the biggest surprise for the Bruins this season.
I see Tuukka Rask having a huge bounce-back season and taking over as the No.1 goalie by the end of the season. Rask will spell relief for a fatigued Tim Thomas, who played in 82 games last season and really has nothing left to prove after winning the Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe and Vezina trophies. Rask is in better shape and is the future of the Bruins.
McDONALD: The performance of Jordan Caron will be the biggest surprise for the Bruins this season.
3. Predict the final scoring lines for these players -- Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.
MURPHY: Tyler Seguin: 22 goals; 39 assists; 61 points -- Seguin shines and has his breakthrough season, showing his offensive finesse but also that he can be depended on defensively. He will be promoted to second line.
Brad Marchand: 14 goals; 23 assists; 37 points -- Marchand’s play declines a bit as he suffers from a sophomore slump and is demoted to third line.
Milan Lucic: 25 goals; 31 assists; 56 points -- Lucic also suffers a bit of decline in goal-scoring but still has a solid season. Inconsistency will plague him.
David Krejci: 30 goals; 51 assists; 81 points -- Krejci proves he is a legit No. 1 center and also that he can light the lamp.
Patrice Bergeron: 31 goals; 33 assists; 64 points -- Bergeron’s offensive flair reappears as he notches his second career 30-goal season and once again is one of the best two-way players in the NHL.
McDONALD: Tyler Seguin: 18-18-36. Seguin will improve slightly but will still experiences some growing pains.
Brad Marchand: 24-23-47. Marchand will start off slow but will settle in and finish strong.
Milan Lucic: 28-35-63. If he can stay healthy, he’ll have a similar season to a year ago.
David Krejci: 20-50-70. The playmaker will have another big season and help his linemates have productive years.
Patrice Bergeron: 21-38-59. Bergeron will stay consistent as ever and remain a leader on and off the ice.
4. Will the Bruins end up making any big in-season moves? If yes, predict a player or two that we could see them target?
MURPHY: Last season Peter Chiarelli made three key moves around the NHL trade deadline, acquiring Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley and Tomas Kaberle. The moves proved critical to the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run, and Chiarelli -- usually calculated and reserved at the deadline -- showed he can be bold as well. So if need be, he will do it again this season, but right now it is too early to tell what might be available. Over the past few weeks Coyotes veteran forward Ray Whitney has been linked to the Bruins in rumors and is a good possibility. Also keep an eye on Ales Hemsky should the Oilers not be competitive.
McDONALD: As long as the majority of the team remains healthy, GM Peter Chiarelli will take a hands-off approach to the roster because of the solid chemistry on and off the ice with this club.
5. Will the Bruins be better on the power play in 2011-12?
MURPHY: Yes the Bruins will be better on the power play this season. They were able to win the Stanley Cup without a power play, but that's not likely to happen again. The addition of Joe Corvo will be pivotal as he will shoot the puck more than Tomas Kaberle did and create more chances down low off rebounds. There is just too much skill on this team for the Bruins to be that bad on the power play again.
McDONALD: The Bruins proved a team with a subpar power play can still win in the playoffs. The exit of Tomas Kaberle and the addition of Joe Corvo could help. But the Bruins also proved the penalty-killing unit is just as important.
6. How far will the Bruins end up going this year?
MURPHY: Just as you can say for all the contenders in the Eastern Conference, if Sidney Crosby isn’t healthy, the Bruins have a very good shot at winning the Eastern Conference. I see Crosby battling post-concussion syndrome throughout the season and the Bruins taking the East again. They will lose to the Los Angeles Kings in the Stanley Cup finals.
McDONALD: Without sounding like a complete homer, I firmly believe the Bruins have what it takes to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. As long as they can remain relatively healthy, the Bruins could be the first team since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings to retain their championship title.