March 30, 2014

The month of March has reached its conclusion. The NHL season is down to its last two weeks. What will follow suit? Playoff hockey.

The most exciting two months in professional sports is drawing closer, and the Boston Bruins are among the teams looking to make a deep run in pursuit of Lord Stanley’s greatest prize.

Although the B’s recently wrapped up the Atlantic Division title by sweeping a weekend’s worth of games a couple days ago, there is a crown out there worthy of grave importance. They are competing with the St. Louis Blues for the Presidents’ Trophy-the team with the league’s best regular-season record.

Yes, that is a great footnote to add to a resume and a beautiful banner to attach to the rafters of the TD Garden. For this particular Bruins team, that means nothing. They want the Stanley Cup.

They possess 110 points and a 52-17-6 record, good for first place in the NHL. They are still ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. At this point in the season, the B’s still do not know who their first-round opponent will be. Detroit, Columbus, Toronto, and Washington are all possibilities for the Black and Gold, but until that happens we cannot focus on matchups.

Instead, we can take a look at exactly who the Bruins will be relying on come April.

Of course, Zdeno Chara will be playing 25 minutes a night and will be the workhorse for this defensive core. Also, Tuukka Rask, who has emerged as the leading Vezina Trophy candidate for best goaltender in the NHL, now has the confidence to ride momentum and carry a team to a title.

Those are obvious players to highlight. For this team, two veterans will carry the load offensively.

First, Patrice Bergeron is having the second-best season of his career from a statistical point of view. The sure-fire Selke finalist has posted 27 goals and 29 assists with a staggering plus-36 rating through 75 games this season. He is currently on a seven-game goal streak. He is also on pace to surpass the 30-goal plateau, which would be incredible considering how Bergeron evolved his game into a more defensive style.

With his linemates playing less than stellar at the moment, “Bergy” will be looking to elevate their play once the playoffs role around. The only thing that could hinder his progress is if B’s head coach Claude Julien decides to rest some of his players down the stretch. In hindsight, that might actually be the best thing for him considering the plethora of injuries he sustained during last year’s playoff run.

Secondly, Jarome Iginla has come to Boston with a vengeance. He has 30 goals for the 12th time in his illustrious career. For all of the naysayers out there who said that he was over the hill and past his prime, they are now admitting just how blasphemous that statement turned out to be. If anything, he is the perfect player to wear the Black and Gold.

He already has more goals and more points this season than Nathan Horton did in any of his years spent in Boston. The production has spoken for itself. He is only signed through this season, but you have to assume that the B’s organization is already working out the details of a potential contract extension for the winger.

If Bergeron and Iginla can keep up their scorching offensive output, the Bruins will be basking in Stanley Cup glory.

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