The rafters of TD Garden will become home to the first NHL hockey championship banner since the early 1970s on Thursday night in front of a crowd that has yearned for it just as much as the organization has, and a team that can't get enough of it.
Fortunately for the Boston Bruins, almost all of the players that helped bring the Cup back to Boston will still be on the ice to face off against the Flyers in the season opener. With the exception of Mark Recchi, Tomas Kaberle, Shane Hnidy and Michael Ryder, the Bruins look remarkably similar to last year. Though, as coach Claude Julien was fast to point out, just because you have the same players, doesn't mean it guarantees you anything in the league.
But it certainly does help the odds.
The Bruins will once again boast its first line of Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, centered by David Krejci. This line dominated play all season, and all three are looking healthy again this year, despite a sinus surgery for Lucic and a concussion and shoulder injury for Horton this summer.
The secondary offense looks good too with sophomores Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin looking to avoid the second-year slump that has plagued players in the past. Seguin, 19, added 10 pounds over the summer and matured his mentality on and off the ice. He said that he's anticipating more out of himself and understands that more will be expected of him from the coaches and staff as well. Marchand signed a two-year extension with the Bruins and is hoping to live up to that contract after scoring over 20 goals last season.
On the defensive end, some changes in the lineup could prove beneficial for the Bruins. In an offseason trade, Joe Corvo left the Hurricanes to come to Boston for former Bruin, Tomas Kaberle. Though this might not be the only answer for the Bruins' lackluster power play last year, it certainly is a step in the right direction. Corvo already has one goal, though it was in preseason play, in the 7-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens last week. He has already proven he shoots the puck, which is something Kaberle was notorious for keeping out of his repertoire.
Also on defense, with Kampfer out of the lineup due to a knee injury he suffered against the Senators, Matt Bartkowski will take the other side of the blue line and showcase his talent. While neither has received the nod for the full season, Julien mentioned he liked what he saw from both young defensemen, and looks forward to the challenges they provide for each other.
And finally, last but not least, who can forget Tim Thomas? Though it's likely that his super-human abilities will not span across all 82 regular season games this year, no one is counting him to do anything close to that. However, it is safe to assume that Tuukka Rask will see a lot more ice time than last year, as both Julien and Thomas have alluded to.
Thomas acknowledged that both he and Rask are supportive of each other and the Bruins are lucky to have two goaltenders that can compete for the job like they do. He also fully understands that Julien enjoys playing the hot hand, and if that means one of the two gets going and plays several games in a row, it's the nature of the game.
The Bruins will see their banner hung up high right before the drop of the puck on Thursday, and while that doesn't guarantee even the win of the first faceoff, let alone an entire season, one thing is for certain - history does have a way of repeating itself, and the champions plan on adding another chapter.