So you're telling me that the Red Sox are in the playoffs, the Patriots are in first, and the NHL is going to start on time? How different does October 2013 feel from October 2012?
The Bruins have changed more this off-season than they have changed in years. Most of the core remains. But no more hoping Tyler Seguin explodes for a 40-goal season. No more quiet, steady leadership from Andrew Ference. No more strong forward play from Nathan Horton.
Oh and the division and playoffs have completely changed. Joining the 5 teams from last year's Northeast Division will be the Red Wings, Lightning, and Panthers. The Panthers just signed a goalie named Tim Thomas, by the way. For the playoffs, the first two rounds will be within the division, with the possible inclusion of a wild-card team from another division.
The B's replaced Seguin and Horton with Loui Eriksson and Jaroma Iginla. I'm excited to see Eriksson and what he can produce. He scored 36 goals a few years ago, hasn't scored more than 30 since. Nor has he scored less than 20 in a full season. So is he a solid contributor that you notice, or does he score random, easy goals when everyone else is scoring?
Then there's Iginla. Who will have to win me over. Most true Bruins fans have one Bruin that they strongly dislike. I don't know who that will be for me this season. Iginla is a strong candidate. The world knows Iginla can play hockey. Can he play Bruins hockey? I wasn't impressed with the defensive play of Pittsburgh's forwards in last season's playoffs. Was that a team thing, or is that how Iginla will play here? I hope he wins me over.
The Bruins are looking at a new generation of young players to fill other holes. Torey Krug electrified in the playoffs, now he has to play strong defense day in and day out. Dougie Hamilton will be asked to take another step forward in his development. 21-year-old Ryan Spooner will start the season in Providence. Carl Soderberg has tremendous talent and fire, but he's 27 and has yet to escape Sweden and make the NHL. Why is that?
The Bruins need to score more. The formula that won the Cup in '11 no longer holds. The defense is still strong, the goalie is great, but neither the defense or the goalie is superhuman like they were in 2011. The offense needs to take the pressure off the defense to be perfect.
The B's can't afford to have a 3rd line that doesn't score at all. Not unless the top two lines seriously increase their production. Or even more feasibly, the PP unit scores in games that the B's can't get anything going with their even-strengthed offense. The Bruins were ranked 26th in power play scoring last year. They were 13th in overall goals per game. The power play is the area of offense that has the most room to improve.
If the power play becomes a decent threat, then the Bruins will have a very good offense.
If the power play becomes a dangerous weapon, then they'll have one of the best offenses in hockey.
Eriksson can produce on the power play. So can Iginla. So can Krug. But so could Seguin. More forwards need to figure out how to score when the B's have a man advantage. It's preposterous how long the power play has been an issue with this team. It doesn't have to be great, just okay would be nice.
This season is going to be long. 82-games plus a break for the Olympics. And we'll see how the new playoff format works out. I'm not a big fan. If it wasn't broken, why did it need to be fixed. One exciting thing is that the B's have had great playoff series with the Leafs, Canadiens, and Sabres. That's exciting, but it could also be dangerous.
Prediction time. The Bruins win the Atlantic Division but lose in the 2nd round of the playoffs in a 7-game series. Hopefully I'm wrong. If they can get their power play to function, then the sky's the limit.