Boston Bruins 2017-18 Outlook
The Boston Bruins were the beneficiaries of career offensive years from Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak last year. The pesky Marchand has maintained his annoying reputation and scored 39 goals last season, while Pastrnak broke out in his third pro season with 70 points (34 goals, 36 assists).
The Bruins are aging up the middle, but Patrice Bergeron is still one of the best two-way forwards in the game. David Krejci avoided injury, playing all 82 games and registering a career-high 23 goals.
Veteran David Backes scored 17 goals after leaving St. Louis as a free agent, with Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano scoring in double figures. Matt Beleskey will look to rebound from a disappointing year, after dropping from 15 goals in 2016 to three last season.
Jimmy Hayes was bought out, and veteran Dominic Moore signed with Toronto as a free agent. Boston will look to young NCAA products Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Anders Bjork to provide depth in their lineup.
The strong suit of the Bruins squad that won the Stanley Cup six years ago was their blueline, with Zdeno Chara eating up minutes and neutralizing the opposition’s top offensive weapons.
Boston’s defensive corps is in transition, with the 40-year-old behemoth and veteran Adam McQuaid the remaining holdovers from the 2011 squad. Colin Miller was lost to Vegas in the expansion draft and Joe Morrow to Montreal in free agency, while GM Don Sweeney added depth in veteran Paul Postma.
Kevan Miller is versatile and can play both the left and right side. The diminutive Torey Krug led all Bruins defenders with 51 points and is an effective power play quarterback. Brandon Carlo successfully jumped from Junior to the NHL and played the top pairing with Chara most of the season. Rookie Charlie McAvoy left Boston University after two seasons and did not appear out of place during the Bruins abbreviated playoff run.
Tuukka Rask had another quality season (37-20-5, 2.23 GAA, .915 save percentage), but the backup situation was a weak link with both Anton Khudobin and Zane McIntyre struggling until late in the season when Khudobin was finally able to achieve a bit of consistency.
A necessity for head coach Bruce Cassidy is to not overwork his starting goaltender, as they had to do with Rask last season.
Looking ahead to trade deadline – if sellers who could be on the move. If buyers, what area might they need to improve? Chara has indicated that he wants to play past 40 and stay with the Bruins, but he is an unrestricted free agent next summer. Riley Nash is also a good energy forward and might be an attractive get as a rental.
The Bruins might want to acquire a defenseman to act as a bridge between the older and young generation on the blueline, but their likely need as deadline time would be scoring depth at forward.
What rookies could make the team? McAvoy is a potential Calder Trophy candidate. Forsbacka-Karlsson and Bjork will challenge for jobs up front, Rob O’Gara and Matthew Grzelyk on defense.
Which player could take a step forward this season? Carlo and McAvoy could end up being the building blocks on the blueline for the next decade.
Which players could regress? Backes is already showing signs of slowing down. With all the minutes he has played during playoff runs, Olympic/World Cup competition, there has to be a concern of how long it will be before Bergeron begins to decline.
Are there any training camp battles expected? Mostly depth positions in question. Danton Heinen, Kenny Agostino, rookies Zach Senyshyn and Jake Debrusk could be in the mix for third/fourth line roles. Grzelczyk and O’Gara could give Miller or Postma a battle for a roster spot.