It's not easy to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions, but that's exactly what the Boston Bruins will look to do this 2012 NHL postseason. They kick off their title defense against the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, and while the Caps might not be at the same level they've been in recent years, the road to another Cup is not easy for the Bruins.
As we know, however, Boston is tailor made for this time of year. They play a bruising style that wears teams out, and they could win this series against Washington in the corners and along the boards. Will they be able to do that for four playoff rounds again, though? We asked Ryan Durling of Bruins blog Stanley Cup of Chowder to answer a few questions as the B's prepare for another postseason run.
1) What's the biggest reason you have confidence in the Bruins heading into the postseason?
If it's not Tim Thomas, it's Zdeno Chara. And if it's not Zdeno Chara, it's whoever is playing with Patrice Bergeron. The forward depth hasn't been there all year, but Brian Rolston has helped turn Benoit Pouliot into a worthy third-line scorer, and David Krejci likes to turn it on in the playoffs.
2) What's the biggest question mark surrounding the Bruins heading into the playoffs?
Health on the blue line is suspect, with Johnny Boychuk having missed the past few games and Adam McQuaid battling back from an eye injury. Getting a forward line to produce with regularity after the Bergeron line will be key to their success, but the Bruins have enough talent that even if one line gets shut down, there are two (or three) more that can carry the load for a game or a series.
3) If there's one player on the Bruins that will have a breakout playoff campaign, who will it be?
It's tough to imagine that Tyler Seguin could have a breakout campaign after a strong regular season, but the kid proved in 2011 that he's got a knack for the big moment.
4) When all's said and done, the Bruins playoff chances hinge on...
5) Give a prediction. How far will the Bruins go in these Stanley Cup Playoffs?
Boston is the third best team in the East next to New York and Pittsburgh, both of whom are playing teams that dominated them in the regular season in the quarterfinal round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. At times this season, the Bruins looked like a Stanley Cup Final team. At times, they looked like they didn't belong in the Conference's Top Eight. They've warmed back up recently, and should be an Eastern Conference Finals team, as long as they can avoid the Pens in the second round.
For more on the Bruins, check in with Stanley Cup of Chowder.