This article is part of our Team Previews series.
With a potential lockout looming, there's plenty of uncertainty surrounding the upcoming NHL season, but for the Bruins, who finished 49-29-4 last season – good for first place in the Northeast Davison and tied for seventh overall – whether or not they can stay among the NHL's elite squads and possibly make another Stanley Cup run, hinges largely on the continued development of goalie Tuukka Rask.
The 25-year-old Finn will take over the Bruins' net-minding chores from Tim Thomas, who plans to take the coming season off for personal reasons. This was a shocking development to say the least, given the high level that the former Vezina Trophy winner was playing at. Under the NHL's current collective bargaining arrangement, if Thomas follows through with his plan to sit out the season, and there's no reason to believe he won't at press time, the Bruins are still slated to be responsible for his $5 million cap hit. In any case, the Bruins are prepared to move on with Rask as their starting goalie this season. He certainly has the talent to succeed, but Rask will need to stay healthy and consistent in order for Bruins' fans to forget Thomas. While Thomas' exit wasn't pretty, and last year's White House snub was a clear distraction, his success leading up to it was unquestioned.
Working in Rask's favor is that the Bruins are a defensively responsible team, featuring a group of players who clearly buy into coach Claude Julien's system. As