The Boston Bruins appeared to be one of the NHL's emerging powerhouses after their surprising run to the Eastern Conference's top spot last season. The team that ended Boston's brief playoff run also had reason for optimism.
Both the Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, however, will be trying to quickly rebound from forgettable season openers as they meet Saturday in Boston for the first time since their dramatic Game 7 in last spring's playoffs.
Boston's breakout 2008-09 campaign resulted in awards for the league's best defenseman, goalie and coach, but the Bruins certainly didn't look like a team primed to return to the top of the East in their season opener, losing 4-1 at home to Washington on Thursday.
Boston coach Claude Julien -- the reigning Jack Adams Award winner -- wasn't pleased with his club, which was outshot by a 12-3 margin in the third period and displayed little of the consistency that marked last season's run.
"This is not the same team you're going to see on the ice night after night. That I can guarantee," Julien said. "As a home opener, it's certainly not what you want to demonstrate. We have a chance to redeem ourselves soon. Hopefully the guys take advantage of that."
Reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas allowed all four goals and captain Zdeno Chara, who won the Norris Trophy, was a minus-one. Boston's offense, meanwhile, managed just Patrice Bergeron's late goal as the club tries to adjust to life without leading goal-scorer Phil Kessel, traded to Toronto last month.
"We are not playing our style and that's the bottom line," center Marc Savard told the Bruins' official Web site. "You just have to chip in pucks in deep, and we were still looking for that extra play to shoot on net."
The lackluster effort was surprising considering the Bruins were a conference-best 29-6-6 at home last season. They lost their most important home game, however, falling 3-2 in overtime in Game 7 of their second-round series against Carolina.
That defeat was especially bitter for Boston after Carolina's Scott Walker scored the game-winner. Walker had sucker-punched then-Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward earlier in the series. Ward was traded to the Hurricanes in the offseason and has begun his second stint with the team.
Carolina's Game 7 victory in Boston is the last time the Hurricanes won, as they were swept in the conference finals by eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh.
They didn't look any better Friday, losing 2-0 at home to Philadelphia in their season opener thanks in part to an 0-for-8 performance on the power play.
"We definitely had the opportunities, especially on the power play," center Eric Staal said. "I don't think we moved it around terribly bad. It just didn't fall for us."
The Hurricanes lost all four of their regular-season meetings with Boston in regulation in 2008-09, and Staal -- Carolina's leading goal-scorer -- was locked down by Chara in those games and held without a point.
Staal finally wiggled free in the postseason, however, tallying four goals and two assists in the seven-game series. Cam Ward, who made 25 saves Friday after signing a lucrative contract extension this week, had a 2.33 goals-against average in the playoff series, including a 36-save shutout in Boston in Game 2.
Sergei Samsonov, who spent his first seven-plus seasons with Boston, will face his former club again after scoring four goals against the Bruins in the 2009 postseason.