BOSTON – The Boston Bruins still have Tim Thomas, and they’ve added something they think might be even more important as they try to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.
“It’s called experience,” coach Claude Julien said of the lessons he learned in the Bruins’ title run last year. “Once you’ve got that experience, it makes you a better coach, and the experience I gained last year, I certainly hope to be able to utilize to my advantage this year.”
The Bruins won their first NHL championship since 1972 last year, thanks largely to the Vezina and Conn Smythe Trophy-winning Thomas and some young forwards who emerged during the postseason. Like their coach, those players have another year of experience and the confidence of knowing they can win it all.
“I feel good about our team,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said on Sunday. “I think we have more skill, because I think our skill has matured from last year. It’s so tight, I mean you’ve got to get some luck along the way, but I think we’ve got as good a chance as any to come out of the East.”
The defending Stanley Cup champions earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They will begin their title defense against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night at Boston’s TD Garden.
“Going into the playoffs you know what’s at stake, and I mean every game is going to be a battle,” forward Patrice Bergeron said. “We have the experience from that last year and we just need to … worry about ourselves and just make sure we are ready for a tough series.”
Last year, Boston escaped Montreal in a seven-game series in the first round, and after sweeping Philadelphia they beat Tampa Bay in another seventh game to advance to the Stanley Cup finals. The Bruins beat the Canucks in Game 7 in Vancouver.
“Playing a couple of Game 7s, and Stanley Cup final Game 7, that’s going to go a long way,” second-year forward Tyler Seguin said. “So, let’s hope the experience with all the little things, the details of the game, the defensive zone and I’m going to do well.”
They had a short summer to celebrate, but then it was back to the ice where they learned quickly that the big shiny trophy comes with a price: There was no sneaking past anyone this season, and the playoffs will be more of the same.
“That only makes things harder on us,” forward Brad Marchand said. “Teams are going to be that much more driven to beat us, and it just shows that we’re going to have to work even harder if we want to win again.”
No team has won back-to-back NHL titles since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and ’98.