When the puck drops at 7:30 at the TD Garden on Thursday night, the Bruins will finally begin their quest to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions.
The Bruins' crazy season, which saw everything from a brief Stanley Cup hangover, a dominant November, a so-called White House scandal, a two-month slump and a resurgent finale, has all led to the start of the second season, or as Tyler Seguin calls it, the "important season."
Waiting for the B's are the Washington Capitals, who come into Boston as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. After being an upper-echelon team for the past couple of seasons, the Caps had a somewhat disappointing season, but that doesn't make Washington any less dangerous.
The Capitals still have a great deal of talent, led by superstar Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. The Caps have also enjoyed a bounce-back year from former Bruin defenseman Dennis Wideman.
The major question mark for Washington is in net. Rookie Braden Holtby will be the starting goaltender for the Capitals after Tomas Voukon and Michal Neuvirth both went down with injuries. While the rookie netminder has played well in limited action this season, Holtby has no playoff experience and could be a big issue for the Caps going forward.
The Bruins, on the other hand, have managed to snap out of their early 2012 doldrums to finish the season strong. The defending Cup champs are healthy for the most part, although the loss of Nathan Horton for the playoffs will be a tough one to take for the B's.
Despite the loss of Horton, the Bruins should have a lot of confidence going into their opening round series. Tim Thomas has turned his struggles around and the team has been playing better lately in every area. The Bruins will need to improve on their power play if they hope to make a deep run this season. While they did win the Stanley Cup with a marginal power play last year, the B's shouldn't count on that formula to take them to the promised land once again.
The Capitals did win three out of four against the Bruins during the regular season, but the B's are going to do everything in their power to make sure that their playoff run goes into June once again.