Top 5 Bruins storylines

December, 29, 2012
12/29/12
12:00
PM ET
After winning the Stanley Cup in June of 2011, the Bruins finished the year with a 9-3-0 record in the month of December and appeared to be poised to contend for a second straight championship in 2012. But whether it was fatigue still lingering from their Cup run, midseason doldrums or the fact it has become so difficult to repeat as champions, 2012 did not go nearly as well as 2011 did.

Here’s a glimpse at five pivotal moments from the calendar year for the Black and Gold:

1. Thomas Skips White House Visit: On Jan. 23, the Bruins took part in an annual pro sports tradition, visiting the White House to be honored by President Obama for winning the 2011 Stanley Cup. But absent from the celebration was 2011 Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, who chose to skip the event due to his disenchantment with the direction of the country.

While Thomas and the team would never admit it, sources confirmed then and later to ESPNBoston.com that this served as a distraction in the dressing room and caused friction between Thomas and the team. A 5-7-1 record in February and just above .500 hockey the rest of the season didn’t do anything to disprove the suspected effects of Thomas’ decision to sit out what should’ve been a celebration of the team and nothing else.

2. Tuukka Rask Injured: While February didn’t go as planned for the Bruins, they were confident they could have a solid stretch run with Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas between the pipes. But those hopes surrounding their goaltending were diminished on March 3 when Rask suffered a groin injury in a 3-2 loss to the Islanders. The injury forced the Finnish netminder to miss the remainder of the season. It also forced the Bruins to go out and sign veteran goalie Marty Turco, who would serve as Thomas’ backup for much of the remainder of the season. Anton Khudobin also saw some action.

3. Defending Champions Ousted in First Round: The Bruins entered the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs as the second seed, one seed higher than they were in 2011 when they won the Cup. But their Cup defense lasted only one round as they suffered a heartbreaking Game 7 overtime loss to the seventh-seeded Capitals. Boston was stymied by rookie goaltender Braden Holtby, who outplayed the reigning Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas, making 31 saves in the deciding game. Four of the seven games in the series needed overtime to decide a winner. It was the first time the Bruins had not advanced past the first round since the 2007-08 season.

4. Thomas Announces He Will Skip 2012-13 Season: On June 3, Tim Thomas confirmed reports that he would bypass the final season of his contract with the Bruins and not play in 2012-13. Thomas, in a Facebook post, cited “Friends, family and faith” as the core reasons for his decision. The move makes Thomas a free agent on July 1, 2013. Thomas eventually waived his no-trade clause later in the month so the Bruins could unload his $5 million cap hit should they find a suitor.

5. Bruins Build Goaltending Depth at Draft: After signing Swedish goalie prospect Niklas Svedberg in early May, the Bruins continued to build their depth between the pipes by drafting goalie Malcolm Subban with the 24th pick overall in the first round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on June 22. Subban -- the younger brother of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban -- was then signed to an entry-level deal in September. The Bruins believe he is at least two to three years away, but they now have a solid pipeline of goalies in Rask, Khudobin, Svedberg and Subban.

Unfortunately and just like every other NHL team, the Bruins have no memorable moments from the 2012-13 season due to the current NHL lockout. But in the new year, they’re hoping they will have hockey to play, and that they can return to their 2011 form.

James Murphy

Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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