By James Payne – 1851 Staff
The Boston Bruins are coming off a disappointing season after failing to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Their big acquisition of the off-season was signing forward David Backes from the St. Louis Blues, and veteran center Dominic Moore, who makes the Bruins his tenth team in a 13-year career thus far. The Bruins lost Loui Eriksson and Chris Kelly to free agency, and bought out Dennis Seidenberg’s contract.
Prior to the season the team is already dealing with a few injuries. The list starts with forward Frank Vatrano who is out three months with a foot injury. Defenseman Kevan Miller had surgery on October 11 to fix a fractured left hand and will be out around six weeks. Patrice Bergeron and Adam McQuaid are both listed as day-to-day to start the season and will miss at least the season opener in Columbus.
Tuukka Rask will be the Bruins’ starting goalie for the fifth season and will roughly play 60-65 games of the 82-game season. When Rask is on his game, he’s a top five goalie in the league. However, he is streaky and is seemingly either at the top of his game or completely off it.
Veteran Anton Khudobin returns to Boston as Rask’s backup after spending the 2012/13 season in Boston. He is a reliable backup and wont be a reason for fans to complain when Rask has a night off.
The defense has been an issue for the Bruins the last couple of seasons after trading away players like Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton. 39-year-old Zdeno Chara will once again lead the team and log plenty of minutes even though it has been evident he can’t be the main guy anymore. Chara will likely be paired with 19-year-old rookie Brandon Carlo.
Torey Krug has consistently been a bright spot on the blue line growing into one of the top offensive defenseman in the league. Krug will be paired with Adam McQuaid when healthy, which hasn’t happened lately.
12-year veteran John-Michael Liles will consist of the third defensive pairing with Colin Miller who made his NHL debut last season. There is still hope that the B’s will trade for a top four defenseman with more experience than their current young guns.
Assistant captains David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron will lead the forward lines and log the most minutes by skating on power play and penalty kill lines. Bergeron and left-winger Brad Marchand, who recently signed an 8-year $49M extension, are coming off a tremendous World Cup of Hockey performance and will look to continue their solid chemistry on the ice with David Pastrnak on the other wing.
Krejci will have to adjust to new wingers after losing linemate Eriksson. Backes, Moore, Ryan Spooner, and Riley Nash are all capable of playing center on the bottom two lines and will see lots of ice time on the wing. Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes will look to produce from the third line wings but are unlucky to probably have a rotating center with so many teammates capable of playing the position.
There will be many high expectations this season, including making the playoffs for this Boston squad. Coach Claude Julien will likely be on the hot seat if the team gets off to a slow start. They will need to perform well in their own zone and do a better job of keeping the puck out of the net, and that starts with Rask.
Chara’s fatigue levels will drop fast and the younger defensemen will have to step up. Marchand has the expectation on his back to score 35-40 goals and the team will need a few 20 goal scorers like Krejci, Bergeron and Pastrnak. Starting the season with a three-game road trip won’t be easy but if they can play their home opener with at least three points under their belt, fans will have high hopes.
If all goes well and the team can stay mostly injury-free, I would expect them to make the playoffs. But another busted season, and the firing of Julien wouldn’t surprise me.