It's Stanley Cup or bust for Bruins now 


The NHL is weird. Its postseason is known as much for its unpredictability as it is for its breakneck pace. 

Lower seeds go far. Sometimes they win it all. Being the best team by no means suggests your eventual name on the Stanley Cup. Just ask Tampa.  

That said, feel free to throw an absolute fit if and when the Bruins don't go the distance this spring. 

Really, you're not overthinking it to apply a Cup-or-bust mentality to the Bruins. It's all about living in the now. 

The Bruins weren't expected to win the Cup this season. Hell, they weren't expected to make it out of the second round. They were expected to be a victim of the division and playoff formats, a hard-luck loser that wouldn't get to play more than 14 playoff games.

Hard luck couldn't be farther from that the Bruins have now. Their superiors -- and even peers -- are all gone. Expectations should have changed when the best team in the league (by a lot) got swept. They should have been underscored when the best team in the West lost, too. The last two Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals and Penguins, also experienced first-round exits. All four division-winners this season are either planning breakup days or have already held theirs. 

Of all the teams that appeared to be shoo-ins to reach the second round, the Bruins are the only club still standing. They're not only the top-seeded team (meaning home ice throughout); they're the best team. While Colorado, Carolina and Columbus provide fun stories and a break from the norm, their presence should only serve as a reminder that the Bruins, as one of the league's best teams this season, stick out like a sore thumb by even still being in the thing.  

Here are the top six betting odds to win the Stanley Cup at the open of the postseason. Tell me which team is not like the others: 

Tampa Bay Lightning: 2-1
Calgary Flames: 10-1
Vegas Golden Knights: 10-1
Boston Bruins: 12-1
Nashville Predators: 121
Washington Capitals: 12-1



Yep, what sets the Bruins apart is that they're still playing. They're joined by the four teams that opened with the worst odds (Columbus, Dallas, Colorado and Carolina) as well as middle-tier clubs like the Islanders, Blues and Sharks. 

These are teams with strengths. We all saw what Columbus did to Tampa with its sticky forecheck and stout defending. But these are not world-beaters. 

If the Bruins can dismiss the Blue Jackets, who won't sneak up on them like they did with the Lightning, they'll face either the Hurricanes (against whom they went 2-1-0 this season) or the Islanders (against whom they went 3-0-0) in the conference finals. 

A Stanley Cup Final would bring either San Jose (against whom they went 2-0-0), Dallas (against whom they went 1-0-1), St. Louis (against whom they went 1-0-1) or Colorado (against whom they went 1-1-0). 

Boston finished 11th in goals and third in goals against this season. While Colorado scored one more goal on the season, San Jose finished second in the league in scoring and Dallas finished second in goals against, none of the aforementioned teams ranked in the top 11 in both categories. Their record says the Bruins were better. Their statistics say they're more balanced, too. 

Yes, the Bruins had an underwhelming first round, but we've seen that before with Cup teams. Boston has no major injuries of which we know. Kevan Miller is missed on the back end and it would be nice to see the Chris Wagner of old, but no big pieces are out. Boston has star forwards, a still really good Zdeno Chara and a goaltender who just added a strong first round to an already very good playoff résumé. This would seemingly be an appropriate time for Charlie McAvoy to make himself a household name as well. 

The Bruins should and will focus on the task at hand one round at a time, as health can always change. Yet in a tournament that's annually anyone's game, it should feel like Boston's time yet again.

The NHL is always wide open, but being the best remaining should stand for something. 

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