For the first time in over a decade, the Boston Bruins will open their season without the likes of David Krejci AND Tuukka Rask. Krejci opted this summer to return home to his family in the Czech Republic and play in front of them, a tough blow to the B's but a decision he was well within his right to make. Tuukka Rask underwent hip surgery in the offseason and will not be available until Christmas-time, that's even if Don Sweeney offers him a contract (I think he will, just saying). And now Patrice Bergeron has tabled contract talks until after this season when his deal expires. If it feels like the Boston Bruins as we know them are ending, it's because it is, they are.
That being said, Don Sweeney went out and bolstered the depth, something that has been lacking in years past. But did he do enough? Is Krejci's departure going to be felt right away despite these roster moves? Time will tell. Cam Neely and Don Sweeney owe it to Bergeron, Marchand and company to make one last kick at the can… and 2022 is the year. Feels like it's Cup or bust, especially with Bergeron's contract expiring after this year. First it was Chara, then it was Krejci, I don't know if my heart will be able to handle Bergeron leaving.
So what does this year have in store for the Boston Bruins?
LET'S GET INTO IT. The 2021-2022 Boston Bruins.
Marchand - Bergeron - Pastrnak
Hall - Coyle - Smith
DeBrusk - Haula - Foligno
Frederic - Nosek - Kuhlman
Extras: Blidh, Lazar (on IR, week to week, upper body)
The top line looked like the best line in hockey once again in the preseason. I imagine Marchand will pick up where he left off (a #nice 69 points last year, good for 3rd in the league), Pastrnak (+1150 to win the Rocket Richard) is coming into the year fully healthy, which is huge, and Bergeron is Bergeron. While Patrice Bergeron said he won't make a decision about his future until after the season (it's fine, I'm fine), which makes it even more of an important year, perhaps truly the last true kick at the can the B's will have with this core. With Krejci back home, it's going to be even more important for this line to really get going offensively to start the year.
Charlie Coyle slides up this year to play 2C. Jack Studnicka had a strong camp (gained 15 pounds this offseason) but ultimately the Bruins felt like Coyle fits best there after undergoing knee surgery that has been hampering him the last couple years. Important year for Coyle to take the next step, but I have no doubt he'll rise up for the challenge. Really excited to see a full year of Taylor Hall, would've loved to see Hall and Krejci together for an entire year, but Hall is a driver, I think he can help drive this line and help Coyle out. Hall will see time on PP1 as well, something we've already seen be pretty lethal in the preseason with Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak and McAvoy. Craig Smith we know can put the puck in the back of the net as well. So on paper, it's a really interesting line that should be able to do some damage offensively and also take care of things on the other end of the ice. Looking for Coyle to bounce back, Hall to really explode with his offense and Smith to be steady as well.
Speaking of Studnicka, it's gotta be frustrating for him to go in, do everything they ask, bulk up, have a really solid camp and still find yourself starting the year down in Providence. I get why him playing 1C minutes in Providence makes more sense than being a winger on the 4th line in Boston, but maaan that's gotta be frustrating. He's so close. He'll be the first guy up if a center gets hurt, and he's on his ELC still so he's waivers exempt. But sucks to see him not crack the opening roster and get rewarded.
Jake DeBrusk, Erik Haula and Nick Foligno make up the third line, a new look for the B's this year with Haula and Foligno being offseason signings. They've started to develop some chemistry in camp and have looked pretty good. Jake DeBrusk will look for a fresh start after a disappointing 5 goal campaign last season, "clean slating it" as he calls it. He picked up a couple goals including 2 SO winners in the preseason. Looking at him to reclaim his spot at 3 LW with Nick Ritchie gone and having a bounce back season. Erik Haula slots in as 3C, I was actually pretty surprised by Haula's speed in the preseason and in camp (which is part of the reason Studnicka is down in Providence is because of the chemistry this line has begun to form through the preseason). Foligno will be the net front presence on the second power play. With DeBrusk's and Haula's speed I think Foligno can really muck it up, bang some bodies and be a little bit of an agitator. He's also bringing in quite a bit of leadership to the room with the loss of David Krejci (have I mentioned David Krejci is gone? Bring it up some more, Marina)
The competition for the 4th line is over. Chris Wagner was put on waivers last weekend, and didn't make the opening roster (B's will save $1M in cap space with him in Providence). It's a big pick up for Providence but obviously pretty disappointing for No. 14. Hopefully he can work on his game down there and be the first guy they call up if/when any B's go down to injury. Curtis Lazar is week to week with an upper body injury and will be out "a while".. therefore your Boston Bruins fourth line will be Trent Frederic, Tomas Nosek and Karson Kuhlman. Not what I expected at all to be honest. Frederic didn't have a great preseason, but we saw what he could bring last year, and I think he'll continue to grow his game and be a pain in everyone's ass. Nosek brings a new look as 4C, he's aggressive, he's 6'3, 200 pounds, loves to crash the net. Bruce Cassidy spoke about Nosek's pace, and how he can cover the ice well despite being a bigger body. Karson Kuhlman will flank them on the right side, he brings some more speed to that line and will bang some bodies. It's definitely a more offensive side of the 4th line than we've seen in years past, but we'll see what happens since most of their shifts will happen starting in the D zone.
Anton Blidh is your 13th forward.
Players to watch: Taylor Hall, Jake DeBrusk, Trent Frederic
Forbort - McAvoy
Reilly - Carlo
Grzelcyk - Clifton
Extras: Zboril, Moore (waived but still with Boston)
Looks like the B's will roll out a Derek Forbort + Charlie McAvoy top pairing. The LHD Forbort signed a 3 year deal, 9 million dollar deal to come to Boston this summer. I personally would prefer to see Matt Grzelcyk reunited with McAvoy… but I understand why Cassidy would rather the big tough 'stay at home defenseman' to skate with McAvoy, a guy who can move the puck out and make things happen in all three zones. Forbort will block shots, eat minutes (especially on the PK) and suppress chances, I just am not sold on this pairing when you know how good Grzlecyk - McAvoy are (in certain situations). That being said, big year for Charlie McAvoy after just signing a big ticket extension to remain a Bruin. 8 more years (kicks in next year), 9.5 million per, 76 million total. Richest contract in B's history. So well deserved. Big money McAvoy. Couldn't be happier for him. Franchise defenseman locked up and I think in a couple years this deal will be a steal. He's that good. Just continues to get better and better and he's already elite.
You should start to see his offense flourish this season (being on the same PP as the best line in hockey certainly helps), but his leadership on the back end is important as well. I thought he could have challenged for the Norris last year (finished 5th), excited to see 73 continue to take the next steps this year. He is your key cog on defense, important, important player this year if the Bruins want to have any success.
We saw Mike Reilly and Brandon Carlo form a pairing since Reilly's arrival in Boston at the trade deadline, and we'll start 2021-2022 season with them intact. Carlo, like McAvoy, is a guy the B's are looking to continue to grow on the ice and in the locker room. Reilly is the smooth skater, Carlo is a mainstay on the PK. Really like this pairing. I thought Reilly priced himself out of Boston with his play last year, but glad to have him back for 3 years.
Connor Clifton earned himself a start in the lineup, slotting in at 3RD with the smooth skating Matt Grzelcyk. Cliffy Hockey can be chaotic at times, but as long as he's helping more than hurting, Cliffy Hockey can be a good thing. But like I said, I can see situations where Cliffy will have Forbort as his partner if Grzlecyk is returned to play with Chuckie Bright Lights (where he should be). McAvoy gets all of the love, but Grzelcyk is right there with him. If he sticks on the 3rd pairing, I think he'll generate a ton of offense, biggest key for Grzelcyk this season is to try and stay healthy (easier said than done).
John Moore was placed on waivers last weekend, despite a decent comeback showing in the preseason. B's save some cash ($1M in cap space if he reports to Providence), but it'll be Jakub Zboril as the next man up on defense. Moore hasn't had to report to Providence yet.
Players to watch: Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Derek Forbort
Jeremy Swayman, Linus Ullmark
The Boston Bruins will enter a season without Tuukka Rask under contract for the first time in nearly 13 years. Rask would love to come back after hip surgery (torn labrum), and should be available around Christmas time, however, in net to begin the year will be a tandem featuring Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark.
Linus Ullmark signed a 4 year deal worth 20 million on the first day of free agency. A good goalie on a bad Sabres team, can only imagine how he'll perform in front of a strong defensive Bruins team. However, he hasn't looked his best in the preseason thus far, and is still adjusting. I think he'll need more time if he wants to grab the starters gig.
Jeremy Swayman was outstanding in the 10 games (7-3, .945 SV%) he played last year, but that's just it, he only played in 10 games. He looked strong in camp and in the preseason and will be your starting goaltender for the Boston Bruins to begin the year. Outplayed Ullmark in the preseason and he just hasn't given you a chance to doubt him quite yet. But alas it is a long season, if things don't go Swayman's way I could see him head down to to the AHL if and when Rask signs in Boston (if things goes off the rails). Let's not get ahead of ourselves yet.. I'm excited to see what he can bring, he is their future, and we shouldn't be discouraged if he can't replicate what he did last year. That being said, it's his net tonight as it should be.
The goalie tandem is by far the biggest wild card the Bruins have going into the season. Buckle up.
THE ATLANTIC DIVISION
The B's return to the Atlantic, where the competition is better than ever…
The Florida Panthers (37-14-5 last year) added Sam Reinhart and Joe Thornton, and have a budding superstar in goalie Spencer Knight. They locked up their Captain Aleksander Barkov for the next 8 years (would've been a great Bruin). They will contend for a top spot in the Atlantic for the first time in a long time.
You know what you're getting with the back to back Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning, even though they saw a lot of roster turnover this summer.
If you watched the Leafs All Or Nothing series on Amazon Prime it was a good look into a locker room that's starving for postseason success. Auston Matthews' wrist is an issue (out first week), but the Leafs can generate offense like no other. They were a powerhouse last year in the shortened season but lost some key guys in Zach Hyman and Frederik Andersen. Former Bruins Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase made their opening night roster. It'll be interesting to see where they end up in the Atlantic after getting upset in the playoffs (once again) by the Canadiens (#ItWas3To1).
The Canadiens are without Carey Price to start the year (and Shea Weber may never play again, is on LTIR), and even though they made it to the SCF last year it seemed more of a Cinderella Story than anything. They'll contend but I don't expect them to be the top dog in the Atlantic by any means. That being said, Cole Caufield is gonna score a ton of goals for them and I really like their acquisition of Christian Dvorak.
The Ottawa Senators just signed Brady Tkachuk to a 7 year, 57.5 million dollar deal JUST before opening night. Tire fire of an organization will. just be slightly better than the Red Wings & Sabres.
The Red Wings are the Red Wings, but at least they're not the Sabres.
The Sabres…. are the Sabres.
Atlantic Division Predictions: 1. Florida 2. Boston 3. Tampa 4. Toronto 5. Montreal 6. Ottawa 7. Detroit 8. Buffalo
+1400 to win the Stanley Cup
+700 to win the Eastern Conference
+325 to win the Atlantic Division
and the total team points is O/U 101.5
David Pastrnak is +1150 to win the Rocket Richard
Charlie McAvoy to win the Norris is +1000
One bet I like is Brad Marchand OVER 35.5 goals, I think the top line looked really good all postseason long, Pastrnak is completely healthy going into the year.. no David Krejci this year so the B's are gonna really rely on that top line and Marchand doesn't look like he's slowing down anytime soon. 63 led the B's with 69 points last year in a shortened season with 29 goals and 40 assists.
These aren't the same Boston Bruins we've seen in the past… we've got a ton of new faces, some wildcards at play in Jake DeBrusk, the goaltending situation, and no Krejci/Rask for the first time in over a decade… but with the best top line in hockey, anything can happen.
It's a great night to win a hockey game.