The Boston Bruins have been hoping for just that ever since the Philadelphia Flyers came back from a 3-0 series deficit last May to knock the Bruins out of the second round.
The Bruins responded to that playoff disaster by having a terrific season. The Bruins are currently third in the Eastern Conference with 94 points and are seven points up on the Montreal Canadiens for the Northeast Division lead.
The team has over 40 wins, an offense that has found the back of the net plenty of times this season after struggling to score last season, and a goaltender who may win his second Vezina Trophy in the last three years. These factors have led the Bruins to be considered one of the top teams going into the playoffs by many hockey pundits and fans alike.
For the Bruins, it starts with the offense. Last season, the team was last in goals scored, averaging 2.39 goals per game. One season later, the Bruins are fifth in the league in that same category, scoring 2.99 goals per game.
The team is led by David Krejci, who has 60 points (12 goals and 48 assists) this season. He works hard, plays on the power play and penalty kill and has been a nice surprise source of offense for the Bruins this season.
Following Krejci is 30-goal scorer Milan Lucic, who has 58 points. He is back to his hard-hitting ways and is a player who goes hard to the net, has a terrific shot and is one of the game's premeir power forwards.
The Bruins also have players such as Patrice Bergeron (22-32-54), Nathan Horton (23-26-49) and the ageless wonder Mark Recchi, who at age 43 has 46 points and continues to show that he can be a great NHLer. All in all, the team has three players exceeding the 50-point mark, and three other players with over 40 points (not including Tomas Kaberle's totals with Toronto).
Unfortunately, the Bruins will more than likely be without Marc Savard, who is once again suffering from post concussion syndrome. It may even be possible that Savard contemplates retirement as he continues to struggle with concussion-related symptoms.
On defense, the Bruins have been better than ever. The team is third in goals against while also being able to provide some offense.
Bruins newcomer Tomas Kaberle may lead the team's defense in points with 45 (4 goals and 41 assists) but it is Zdeno Chara who produces a lot of offense. This season, Chara has 42 points (13 goals and 29 assists) and will more than likely be in contention to win the Norris Trophy once again.
Other Bruins defensemen who have gotten the job this season are Dennis Seidenberg (6-23-29), Johnny Boychuk (2-11-13), Andrew Ference (2-11-13), and Adam McQuaid (3-11-14). These players have done a solid job of helping out their netminders this season.
Another major reason why the Bruins have been so successful this season is the play of goaltender Tim Thomas. Thomas did not have his best season last year due to lingering hip problems, but has responded with one of the best seasons of his career.
In 52 games, Thomas is 32-10-8 with a 2.00 goals-against average, a .939 save percentage and 8 shutouts. He makes timely saves, never gives up on a play and should once again have a good shot at winning another Vezina as the league's top netminder.
Last season's star netminder for the Bruins, Tuukka Rask, has not been as fortunate as he was last season. With that said, he hasn't been terrible and is 10-13-2 with a 2.69 goals against average, a .918 save percentage and 2 shutouts. He is definitely the goaltender of the future for the Bruins, so he will get his chance to shine again some point in the near future.
There is a reason why hockey pundits think this Bruins team can win the Cup this season. It's because they have everything from a balanced offense to a solid blueline, along with a world class goaltender.
If the Bruins carry over their successful campaign into the playoffs, there is more than good reason to believe that come June, they coule be raising the Cup for the first time since 1972.
Photo credit: Getty Images