The Boston Bruins followed up their 2013 Stanley Cup Final appearance by winning the Presidents’ Trophy last season, but a second-round playoff exit has them anxious to get this campaign underway.
It’s a similar feeling for the Philadelphia Flyers, who are hoping to again be considered one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams.
Expectations are high for both the Bruins and Flyers as they face each other in Wednesday night’s opener in Boston.
Tuukka Rask won the Vezina Trophy and Patrice Bergeron took home his second Selke as the Bruins (54-19-9) finished eight points better than any other team in the East in 2013-14, but they were eliminated in seven games by rival Montreal in the conference semifinals.
Boston lost 30-goal scorer Jarome Iginla to Colorado in free agency and traded defenseman Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders for draft picks Saturday, but it has plenty of its top-end talent back and again has Stanley Cup aspirations.
"We have to get off to a good start," Bergeron told the team’s official website. "We have to establish a connection with all the new players and make sure we’re dialed in and that we definitely need to carry on what we’ve accomplished already."
Philadelphia hasn’t accomplished much since losing to Chicago in the 2010 final, failing to advance past the second round since. The Flyers (42-30-10) recovered from a 3-9-0 start last season to reach the playoffs, where they fell to the New York Rangers in a seven-game first-round series.
Craig Berube, who replaced Peter Laviolette four games into last season, went through his first full training camp as coach and likes the way Philadelphia looks heading into its opener.
"Practices are good, they’re fast," Berube said. "It just comes down to a mental game."
Hart Trophy finalist and captain Claude Giroux again will be counted on to be the main scoring threat after tying his career high with 28 goals and finishing fourth in the league with 58 assists. To forward Wayne Simmonds, though, Berube’s leadership is what has the Flyers thinking about a special season.
”When he gets barking, you don’t want to be making eye contact with him too much,” Simmonds said. ”But I can say Chief’s a player’s coach. He’s been really good with us. It’s been awesome playing for him.”
Simmonds, who had career highs in goals (29) and assists (31) last season, skated for the first time in nearly a week Monday after being in a walking boot with an apparent left foot injury. It’s still unclear if he’ll be ready for the opener.
"He looked good," Berube said after Monday’s practice. "He finished the whole practice, did some extra skating. He looked fine for me."
Boston’s lineup appears more certain. Bergeron again will center a line with Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith, while Loui Eriksson will move up to the second line with Milan Lucic and David Krejci.
Krejci, however, won’t be on that line for at least the first few games. Boston placed its leading scorer from last season on injured reserve Tuesday after he suffered an undisclosed injury in Saturday’s preseason finale.
Eriksson, acquired prior to last season in the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas, scored only 10 goals while playing mostly on the third line and missed 21 games due to injury.
”If you’re playing with that (second) line you’re going to get more ice time," Eriksson said. "Hopefully we can get up the points and get back to where I was a couple years ago.”
The Bruins’ back end also appears to be strong, with former Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug and third-year standout Dougie Hamilton. A healthy Dennis Seidenberg returns, giving the defense solid depth despite the loss of Boychuk.
"Everything that happened with Johnny, it’s tough. He was such a big part of the locker room," Krug said. "Guys are going to kind of have to pull their end of the slack and make up for what we lost in Johnny."
The Flyers, who lost all three meetings with Boston last season, could have Steve Mason opposite Rask in goal, though they’ll also open their home schedule Thursday against New Jersey. Mason tied his career high of 33 victories last season, matching his total as the Calder Trophy winner with Columbus in 2008-09.