Bruins 2013 Season Preview: A Look at Boston’s Revamped Forward Group

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Good afternoon, everyone! And a warm welcome back to hockey season! Yes, finally the leaves will begin to change color as the temperature drops and the NFL season kicks off. That could only mean one thing; that hockey and the 2013-14 NHL season are just around the corner! I hope you all had a healthy, peaceful and enjoyable summer. After a couple months off to rest and recharge, I am excited as ever to be back covering another season of Boston Bruins hockey, right here on Hockey Independent!

Without further ado, here is my first piece of the 2013 season, where I take a brief look at the year ahead for every forward on the Bruins’ roster. Part II of the series, to be released next week, will feature a look at Boston’s defense and goaltenders.

11 Gregory Campbell — 10 goals, 10 assists

- The incredible depth and versatility that Gregory Campbell brings to the Boston lineup was never more apparent than in last summer’s Stanley Cup Final, in which the Bruins’ fourth line became a shell of its former self, once No. 11 went down with an injury. This year, one would expect that Campbell will be reunited with Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille on one of the Eastern Conference’s premiere fourth-line units.

12 Jarome Iginla — 33 goals, 24 assists

- Lost in all the hoopla of last year’s trade deadline drama surrounding Iginla, the Bruins, and the Penguins is the fact that Boston’s north-south, physical brand of hockey fits the playing style of the former Calgary captain a lot better than Pittsburgh’s skill-based offensive attack. With the Bruins, Iginla will also have the ability to move over from the left side, where he primarily played in Pittsburgh, to his natural position of right wing. With Lucic creating space for he and David Krejci on Boston’s top-line, expect a rejuvenated Iginla to easily surpass the 25-goal mark this season.

17 Milan Lucic — 25 goals, 31 assists

- After struggling through most of last year’s lockout-shortened regular season, Lucic took his game to another level in the postseason, leading the charge in Boston’s miraculous Game 7 comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Throughout the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, No. 17 was one of the team’s biggest offensive difference-makers, scoring timely goals and consistently setting the tone of the game with toughness and physicality.

18 Reilly Smith — 14 goals, 17 assists

- One of the more interesting storylines to follow during this year’s preseason will be whether or not first-year Bruin Reilly Smith can overtake Jordan Caron in the battle for Boston’s open spot at third-line right wing. The former Dallas Stars’ draft choice could be considered undersized (5-foot-11, 185 pounds), but he’s got a great wrist shot and isn’t afraid to mix it up and get to the dirty areas in front of the net.

20 Daniel Paille — 12 goals, 6 assists

- Following a career-year during the regular season (10 goals, 7 assists in 46 games played), Daniel Paille was one of Boston’s most valuable players throughout their playoff run last spring. No. 20 continued to log valuable penalty-kill minutes and even came through with a pair of timely goals against the Blackhawks in the Final.

21 Loui Eriksson — 24 goals, 40 assists

- After spending the first seven years of his career in the Dallas organization, Loui Eriksson comes to Boston as the biggest prize of a major offseason right-wing overhaul. Likely to be paired with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the defensively-sound winger will add another element of speed and skill on Boston’s dynamic second line. What will be most interesting to watch is how Eriksson handles the increased pressure that comes with playing for a winning franchise in a hockey-mad city like Boston, after playing for a team in Dallas that’s missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons.

22 Shawn Thornton — 4 goals, 5 assists

- Likely heading down the stretch run of his career, Boston’s incumbent enforcer will be back for the final year of his current contract with the Black and Gold. In the wake of Andrew Ference’s offseason departure, Thornton could be in line to fill the void as one of the team’s alternate captains.

23 Chris Kelly — 8 goals, 10 assists

- Boston’s $3-million dollar third line center struggled throughout most of last season, including a 3-month stretch from March 10 to June 15 in which he scored just one goal in 29 games. This lack of production was enough to cause Kelly’s name to be brought up in trade rumors this summer during the Bruins’ flurry of offseason activity. However, a strong finish in the Final was enough to buy Kelly at least one more year to prove he can get back to being the player who scored 20 goals and added 19 assists for the Black and Gold in 2011-12.

34 Carl Soderberg — 15 goals, 25 assists

- After seeing action in just eight games (six regular season contests, and two in the Stanley Cup Final) with the Black and Gold, Soderberg must have made a great initial impression with the Boston brass. With Rich Peverley sent to Dallas in the offseason and no other veterans brought into the fold, Soderberg will be heavily relied upon for secondary scoring on the Bruins’ third line.

37 Patrice Bergeron — 21 goals, 44 assists

- The perfect model of consistency, Bergeron has missed just nine games over the last three seasons, combined. With his early-career concussion issues now clearly in the past, the rest of the league is finally starting to recognize Bergeron as one of the truly elite players in the game today; something fans in Boston have known for years.

38 Jordan Caron — 7 goals, 11 assists

- Boston’s much-maligned former first round draft choice has spent the better part of his first three years as a pro skating in the AHL. Now, some players certainly take a little longer to develop than others, but the fact that he was overlooked in favor of a 38-year-old, soon-to-be-retired Jay Pandolfo as Patrice Bergeron’s potential injury replacement in Game 6 of the Final tells you a lot about Boston’s confidence in Caron.

46 David Krejci — 19 goals, 46 assists

- Without question the most dynamically skilled and offensively gifted forward on the Boston roster, David Krejci was once again one of the Bruins’ most consistent performers last season. With veteran sniper Jarome Iginla now skating alongside, I’d expect a breakout season from Boston’s top-line pivot.

63 Brad Marchand — 31 goals, 26 assists

- Despite not skating overseas during the lockout, Marchand came out guns-a-blazing at the start of last season, picking up points in four of his first five games. Finishing the year with 18 goals and 18 assists, Marchand was the Bruins’ leading scorer for the first time in his career. This year, with a more defensive-oriented linemate on the right side, in former Dallas Star Loui Eriksson, expect No. 63 to have even more freedom to make plays in the offensive zone.

Points Leader: David Krejci/Patrice Bergeron (65 points)

Leading Goal Scorer: Jarome Iginla (33 goals)

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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Michigan Fan. Street Hockey Agitator. My work has been featured at the New England and New York Hockey Journals, The Hockey Guys, and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com!

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