GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

January 11, 2013

NHL season sure to produce fireworks

On Hockey
Nick Curcuru

---- — The wait was too long, the labor process was too tedious, both sides were too hardheaded, but in a mere eight days the NHL is finally back.

The long labor dispute and subsequent lockout may have been frustrating while it was going on, but a resolution brings a highly anticipated 48 game regular season that begins January 19, when the Bruins open up at the TD Garden against the New York Rangers. The Bruins and Rangers just so happened to be the top two teams in the Eastern Conference last season.

The Bruins will be looking to repeat the Stanley Cup glory they tasted in the 2011 season, and there’s a lot to look forward to in the 2013 NHL season.

48 game season will be as exciting as it gets

One would be hard pressed to come up with any sporting event more gut wrenching and exciting than the NHL playoffs. The speed of the game combined with the all out effort on the ice is truly a spectacle.

With just 48 games the regular season will draw a striking resemblance to the NHL playoffs this year and that’s good news for all hockey fans.

During a lengthy 82 game schedule teams have to find that happy medium to get through the season, and on some nights in the middle of the season the game isn’t played at the speed it and effort should be.

But with just 48 games, the regular season becomes that much more important and the margin for error severely decreases. Teams will have to keep their respective feet on the gas pedal.

Expect a playoff like atmosphere on most nights this season, especially early in the year where every team will be looking to get off to a fast start.

The regular season is essentially a mad dash to the postseason, and just under half the league is going to be left behind. The shortened season will also make the playoff race much more exciting. Less games means more teams in contention and makes it tough for even the teams at the top of the standings to get comfortable.

Early season, late season, midseason, every game has means something this year and it should make for one of the most exciting regular seasons in recent memory.

Cup contenders again

Teams will be looking to start the year quickly, and the Bruins may have an advantage over the other 29 teams in the NHL when it comes to early season play.

The Bruins are already considered one of the best teams in the league having won the Stanley Cup just two seasons ago with the same core group of players and they look to be poised for another run in 2013.

During the lockout several of the top players in the league took their talents overseas until the lockout was resolve. In what was a testament to the Bruins’ depth, a league high 12 players from the defending Northeast Division champions played in Europe. That can do nothing but help the Bruins early on this season.

Having 12 players playing overseas since November means the Bruins will enter the season with 12 players in midseason form, 12 of their best players in forwards Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Rich Peverly, Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille, defensemen Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ferrence and Johnny Boychuk and goalies Tukka Rask and Anton Khudobin.

None of the 12 players skating overseas has looked better than 20 year old phenom Seguin who led the Swiss League with 25 goals and 40 points in 29 games for EHC Biel. Seguin had a breakout season in 2012 as the Bruins leading scorer and looks to take another step towards superstar status in 2013.

Krejci and Bergeron were also point per game guys in the Czech League and Swiss League respectively.

The Bruins are definitely one of if not the favorite in the Eastern Conference this season. The Rangers, Devils, Flyers and Penguins look to be their biggest road blocks to another Stanley Cup trip.

Tukka time

The future is now in the Bruins net. With long time starting goalie and 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas taking the season off, Tukka Rask finally becomes the guy in the Bruins goal.

Rask has showed tons of promise as he was one of the top backup goalies in the entire NHL over the last two seasons but saw rare action in the playoffs. That doesn’t mean the 25 year old Rask is a stranger to the playoffs, he was the Bruins starting net minder during the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Rask has showed tons of promise as the Bruins goalie of the future. He is now the Bruins goalie of the present and something tells me the team will be just fine with him between the pipes.