uspw_6180386The Boston Bruins are being batted around a lot as favourites going into the abbreviated 2013 NHL season.

Sure, the club is coming off an early playoff exit last season at the hands of the Washington Capitals. And yeah, they’ll be without Tim Thomas as the goalie hopes to connect with the three Fs. But there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Peter Chiarelli’s team and plenty of excitement in Boston.

For one thing, the Bruins kept their nucleus in place. Free agents were signed, with the likes of Johnny Boychuk, Gregory Campbell, Rich Peverley, Shawn Thornton, and Chris Kelly kept in the fold. And head coach Claude Julien was given the vote of confidence behind the bench thanks to a contract extension in the summer that hammered him in place for more than a few years.

The Bruins are essentially hoping that more of the same will take them further in the post-season. They know that they’ve got one of the most well-balanced hockey teams in the National Hockey League, with youth and experience meshing to formulate one heck of a threatening club.

Consider Tyler Seguin, the 20-year-old kid from Brampton. He’s coming off a 67 point campaign with 29 goals to show for himself. He’ll have every opportunity to build on that and could well become a point-per-game skater in 2013.

27-year-old Nathan Horton is also in the mix. He’ll be back from a concussion and is generally good for about 25 goals and 55 points per season.

Boston also boasts one of the league’s most complete (and devastating) defensive groups.

Goalie Tuukka Rask is the heir apparent to Thomas and he’ll get every opportunity to prove himself in 2013. He’s sitting on a one-year deal at the moment and should be working at getting more out of Chiarelli, so that puts him in line for a solid season between the pipes. Rask backed an injured Thomas in 2009-2010, playing 45 games and knocking out a 22-12-5 record in that time span. He’s got the goods to go far.

Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference anchor the blueline, forming a fearsome group augmented by Boychuk and Aaron Johnson. Dougie Hamilton may also be a factor.

The Bruins will start their run for the Cup in a game against the New York Rangers, another Eastern Conference powerhouse. The fun begins on Saturday.