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BOSTON (CBS) — I know the Bruins haven’t been improved by the Johnny Boychuk trade because I have eyes and because general manager Peter Chiarelli told us so.

Nonetheless, the Bruins fancy themselves Stanley Cup contenders and even their step back in terms of veteran talent on the blue line after jettisoning Boychuk doesn’t pull them down far enough that they can’t be in the conversation about the top seven or eight teams in the NHL.

In fact, by virtue of geography they’re one of only three or four favorites to reach the Stanley Cup Finals, because of the Eastern Conference’s overall weakness when compared to the Western Conference.

With the regular season about 48 hours from beginning on Causeway Street, here are five questions the new-look Bruins’ defense corps has to answer to make everyone forget Boychuk:

1. How do you replace Boychuk off the ice?

Before we dig into the on-ice ramifications of Boychuk’s departure, let’s take a quick look at what he meant off the ice. By all accounts, he was a nice guy and a popular guy with teammates and outsiders. But let’s debunk the notion put forth elsewhere that he was some kind of William Wallace-type leader. The guy is hockey’s answer to Spicoli. He may have shared a motivational word or two with his teammates over the years, but he’s easily replaceable in that realm. There are so many veterans in the Bruins’ room, they all lead in one way or another, and if they lack for a class clown now, they’ll get by.

2. What do the Bruins see in Matt Bartkowski?

Over the weekend I already brought up coach Claude Julien’s quote about this guy from a little more than a week ago. …read more