The Boston Bruins surprised many people by finishing third in the Atlantic Division in 2016/17. They also qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in three seasons.
A big reason for the Bruins’ turnaround last season was due to tremendous seasons from two key players. Brad Marchand had a career year, scoring 39 goals and 85 points in 80 games, and finished fifth in the Art Ross Trophy race.
Meanwhile, third-year forward, David Pastrnak had a breakout season. He scored 34 goals and 70 points in 75 games and was a key offensive weapon for the Bruins throughout 2016/17.
Despite losing to the Ottawa Senators in round one of the playoffs, the Bruins had an awfully quiet offseason and did little to change the outlook of their team. It looks like general manager Don Sweeney and Bruins’ management are very comfortable with what they have and expect their youth to step up and make a huge impact on the team in 2017/18.
Due to a series of events, Charlie McAvoy unexpectedly made his NHL debut for the Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs last season. However, the former Boston University standout has yet to play a single NHL regular season game. He can still be considered as a new addition to the Boston Bruins’ blueline.
During last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, McAvoy looked like he belonged in the NHL. He averaged 26:12 minutes of ice-time and was on the ice in many key situations. Look for him to be a huge impact on the Bruins next year and be one of their most important defensemen for the foreseeable future.
Aside from McAvoy, the Bruins were rather inactive in free agency or any key acquisitions through the trade market.
The Vegas Golden Knights at the NHL expansion draft in June selected Colin Miller. Miller spent the past two seasons with the Bruins, appearing in 103 NHL games, scoring 29 points and averaging around 15 minutes of ice-time per game.
Dominic Moore played 82 games for the Boston Bruins last season, scoring 11 goals and 25 points. The Bruins chose not to re-sign the 37-year-old; as a result Moore inked a one-year $1 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Drew Stafford was acquired from the Winnipeg Jets for a conditional 6th round draft pick on March 1, 2017. He played 18 games for the Bruins scoring four goals, and eight points. The Bruins decided to let him walk as a free agent in favor of younger players in the lineup next season.
Moving on up
Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson was a second round pick of the Bruins back in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He spent the last two seasons at Boston University polishing his game and looks to be ready to join the Bruins next season.
Forsbacka-Karlsson will be a good candidate to be slotted in at the third-line center spot for the Bruins on opening night.
Anders Bjork was a fifth round pick for the Boston Bruins back in 2014. He tremendously improved his game at Notre Dame for the past three seasons and looks ready to move on to the professional ranks.
Bjork recently forwent his senior season with the Fighting Irish. Going into training camp, the Bruins organization believes he has a good shot to land a full-time roster spot somewhere on the team’s top-nine next season.
Sean Kuraly played most of the last season with the Providence Bruins in the AHL, scoring 26 points in 54 games. However, the 24-year-old got called up later in the year to play for the Bruins in the playoffs.
In the series against the Ottawa Senators, Kuraly suited up for four games and managed to score two goals. Coming into the training camp, the Bruins will likely give Kuraly a good look and possibly keep him around to start the season.
What can the Boston Bruins achieve this season?
This upcoming season, a lot of Boston’s success hinges on the performance of their youth. Players like C McAvoy, Carlo, Bjork and Forsbacka-Karlsson will be expected to take a big step forward.
Especially on defense, with players like Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid declining, they will need McAvoy and Carlo to “take up the torch.” If McAvoy and Carlo can become the team’s best top-three defenders along with Torey Krug, the Bruins’ chances of becoming a competitive team dramatically increases.
Although the Original Six franchise may not be a Stanley Cup contender next year, they still have a decent core built in Krejci, Bergeron David Backes, Chara and Tuukka Rask.
Therefore, the playoffs should be the goal for 2017/18.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy will enter his first full-season as the Bruins’ head coach. He had a very impressive 18-8-1 record last year after taking over the helm. Under his guidance, we can expect a much hungrier Bruins team to come out of the gates this coming season.
Finally, the Bruins will have to better manage the number of games Rask plays next year. He has averaged 66 games in his last three seasons andshowed signs of fatigue last year.
Ideally, if backup goalie Anton Khudobin and prospect Malcolm Subban can come in and collectively give the Bruins 20-25 games, it would go a long way in keeping Rask fresh for crucial games later in the season.
It will be a tight race for the Boston Bruins to keep up in the east, but a low-seed playoff berth should be a realistic target. To secure that, the B’s will likely have to be a top-three team in the Atlantic Division.
Considering how deep the Metropolitan Division looks, there could be five teams from that division making the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and the possibility of the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Islanders could be joining the party.
The Bruins will have to do their part to control their own fate. As of now, the projected top-three teams in the Atlantic looks to be the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Along with a few dark horse teams including the Buffalo Sabres, and the Ottawa Senators, the Bruins will need to win a few divisional series to keep themselves in the hunt.
Realistically, the Bruins looks to be a fourth to fifth place team in the Atlantic Division with an outside chance to be a wild card team in the East. Playoffs are not a guarantee but they don’t look like a lottery team either.
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