COACH Claude Julien (5th season)
LAST SEASON 46-25-11 (3rd in East); won Stanley Cup
KEY ADDITONS D Joe Corvo, LW Benoit Pouliot
KEY LOSSES D Tomas Kaberle, RW Mark Recchi, RW Michael Ryder
THERE IS NO simple cure for a Stanley Cup hangover. No hair of the underdog. The short, giddy summer of an NHL champion invariably saps energy and sometimes will. While there has been no repeat Cup winner since the 1997--98 Red Wings, curiously no team has ever won back-to-back Northeast Division titles since the group was carved out of the old Adams Division in 1993.
The Bruins figure to hold off the Sabres and the Canadiens in the Northeast. But the Cup? "I'm not going to project that we'll repeat, although ultimately that'll end up being our goal," says Tim Thomas, coming off the best year of any goalie since the Flyers' Bernie Parent in 1975. "The season will be broken down to smaller, digestible pieces. That approach served us well last year."
It worked better than the bumbling power play—Boston ranked 20th during the season, then scored on just five of 61 opportunities through three rounds of the playoffs as the club careened its way to the Stanley Cup finals. With only light roster turnover, the Bruins will likely tread a similar path in 2011--12. Boston is unique among elite teams because it has shown the ability to win without either a fully functional power play or a classic No. 1 center. (Marc Savard will miss the season because of postconcussion syndrome.) Patrice Bergeron reestablished himself as a cornerstone in the playoffs, scoring 20 points in 23 games while playing sublime defense, but he is not an archetypal point-per-game player. He will again be flanked by Brad Marchand, a caustic sophomore who had 11 playoff goals, almost double the number of jabs he landed on the mug of Canucks winger Daniel Sedin during a goalmouth scrum in Game 6 of the finals. "That Cup run should help us to improve from within," says Thomas, "because it boosted the confidence of a lot of guys."