I bought the Hockey News big late August issue today, which features all their predictions on standings, awards etc. (By the way THN picked 7 of the 8 teams I picked in the West to make the playoffs, the only difference being that they picked Edmonton and not Phoenix. I had Edmonton down as 9th). But I was surprised to see that they put the Boston Bruins down as a 10th place team in the East, after I picked them to place first!
I'm going to go into a more elaborate breakdown of why the Bruins are so good. Aparently everyone else is not seeing it...
Sturm - Savard - Kobasew *Sturm and Kobasew scored 27 and 22 goals respectively last season. And Savard is an assist machine, and a very dominant centre. This isn't going to be a top 5 first line in the league, but the key to Boston's success is going to be their depth, getting scoring from everywhere.
Lucic - Bergeron - Kessel *These are the guys I think all the 'experts' are overlooking. All three guys have tons of talent. And the way Lucic plays it gives the B's an explosive power forward in the making to go along with super talented finesse guys. Boston almost beat Montreal in the first round last year and they played the whole time without the injured Bergeron who has potential to put up point per game type numbers this year. The prospect of having Savard and Bergeron as a 1-2 punch down the middle putting up 95 and 75 points would be an incredible combo and it could happen.
Axelsson - Krejci - Ryder *Even if Ryder doesn't return to 30 goal form, let's say he's good for close to 20. He makes a good 2nd-3rd line support winger with the types of talented centre's the B's can throw out there. Krejci was a force vs. Montreal in the playoffs and he's another one of those guys who is poised for a big year. 27 points in 56 games last year is a 40 point pace, and this year he should be a regular in the line up the whole season, its conceivable that he could post 40 or 50 points and be very productive. Axelsson as always will be a solid support winger playing his aggresive style and chipping in the odd goal.
The fourth liners will be determined in camp but it should be made up of guys like Schaeffer - a decent depth scorer who can play 1st-3rd line duties in the event of injuries, Shawn Thornton - a solid veteran, Sobotka - 21 year old could be ready to take on a bigger role with the team, Nokelainen - 22 year old put up 10 points in his rookie season, he won't become a star but could still be good on the fourth line, Jeremy Reich - played in about half the games last year he scored just 2 goals, could take on the same type of role this year.
Chara - Wideman * Chara logs huge minutes, and I don't think I need to explain to anyone how good he is. You could argue right now that he's the next most valuable d-man in the league to Nik Lidstrom. Dennis Wideman is another gem. Great two-way defensman who makes smart plays.
Ward - Ference * Really solid 3-4 d-men. Don't think they're that great? Well let me ask you, how many teams in the East can say they have a better 2nd pairing than these two? Not many, if any, these guys are good defensive players.
Hnidy, Alberts, Mark Stuart * These guys make #5,6,7 on the B's blueline and they're all decent. Good enough that if the Bruins run into some injury trouble, these guys could be counted on to take on a bigger role short term.
Tim Thomas *Now for a long while I was one of Timmy's biggest critics. I'm still not crazy about him because he does tend to play a very streaky game. But the good news is that when Thomas gets cold he'll have someone who can step in who he didn't have last year due to injury - Manny Fernandez! I can definitely see these two playing as a tandem. Fernandez is used to the tandem system from his days with Rolly in Minnesota and I think the two of them could make a good combo. Don't forget that Thomas was an All-Star last season, and he did get hot and steal some games, and he outplayed Price/Halak in the playoffs last year.
In conclusion, Boston = good. 1st place in the East you heard it here first, take that one to the bank.