The Bruins open their season tonight against the Winnipeg Jets at home in the Garden. Last season was a massive disappointment for the Bruins. The club was expected to contend for a Stanley Cup. Instead, the team didn’t even make the playoffs. Injuries to key players such as Adam McQuaid, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara, this team didn’t stand much of a chance. The team struggled to put the puck in the back of the net all year and couldn’t find a backup suitable enough which lead to Tuukka Rask being overtaxed and tired down the stretch. There was a lot of changes this offseason in Boston. Peter Chiarelli left and was replaced by Don Sweeney. Sweeney and his staff made some immediate changes to the roster by trading two way forward and fan favorite Milan Lucic. Sweeney then dealt away promising young defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Sweeney then took a big swing and miss on all three first round picks in his first draft as a GM. Not a great start. After the Hamilton trade, the Bruins had traded both of the picks they received from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade. The Tyler Seguin trade hasn’t worked out so far and at the moment it looks as though the B’s will also lose the Dougie Hamilton trade. The Bruins brought in some nice pieces in the offseason in grinder Zac Rinaldo, big bodied forward Jimmy Hayes and Matt Beleskey, who scored 22 goals last season for the Anahiem Ducks. But this team still has a handful of questions to answer during the upcoming season.
- Will the age continue to show? Last year, the Bruins relied heavily on Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg on the back end. Chara and Seidenberg are both near the end of their careers. Last year the age showed as each of them looked a step slower than fans were accustomed to seeing. With the defense in worse shape than it was last season, Chara and Seidenberg may be in for even more minutes than they saw last season. This season has already got off to as sour note for Chara, as he is expected to miss some time after he suffered an upper body injury in the preseason. If they can turn back to clocks to the level of play that they were at in 2013, it could be enough to allow the Bruins to get back into the playoffs.
2. How will the new guys gel with their new teammates? As previously mentioned, the Bruins added some new guys. Each of them seem to fit in with the tradition of “Big Bad Bruins” hockey. Zac Rinaldo sometimes gets the reputation of being a dirty player but he’s a grinder. Rinaldo doesn’t score at all but he’s an enforcer. He’ll take over Lucic’s early role of just hitting people and standing up for his teammates, something that didn’t happen a lot last year. Jimmy Hayes is originally from Dorchester and he comes back home to Boston after playing at Boston College. So he knows Bruins hockey. Jimmy stands at 6’6 and gets the dirty goals by just going to the front of the net. He finally got healthy last season and scored 19 goals for the lowly Florida Panthers. Although of his elite size and skill, Hayes doesn’t provide the “tough guy” role as he only had 20 penalty minutes last year so expecting him to actually be “Big Bad Bruin” may not be accurate. Matt Beleskey was added from the Anaheim Ducks and last year was a breakout of sorts. He scored 22 goals in 65 games. His addition should help provide the scoring punch that this team sorely lacked last year.
3. Can David Pastrnak build on a solid rookie year? The youngest player in the NHL last year, David Pastrnak provided a jolt of energy when the Bruins gave him a shot. He scored 10 goals in 46 games. He struggled down the stretch, as did the entire roster. His expectations are lofty this year as he could potentially be on the first line this year with Patrice Bergeron. The lines could be in a shuffle for the first month or so, as Claude Julien continues to find out where to place the new faces on the roster. Pastrnak might be the best pure scorer on the roster and he’s still only 19. The sky seems to be the basement on his potential in this league but its up to the coaching staff to help him reach his goal. If he can build off a relatively impressive rookie year, look for him to be a massive breakout candidate. Don’t be surprised if he approaches the 30 goal plateau.
4. Will the Bruins find a suitable backup for Tuukka Rask? Last year, Tuukka Rask started 67 games and faced 2,011 shots. Those number ranked 4th and 2nd, respectively, in the NHL. The only goalie that faced more shots was Braden Holtby, who started five more games and only faced 34 more shots than Tuukka. Rask still put up solid numbers as he posted a 2.30 goals against average and had a save percentage of .922. Tuukka was exhausted by the end of the year and it showed in his play. Niklas Svedberg didn’t play well when he started and the Bruins didn’t bring him back. Instead, they opted for Jonas Gustavsson, who might be worse. His career numbers read as 60-55, a 2.89 GAA, and a .901 save percentage. Malcolm Subban played one game last season and got lit up by the St. Louis Blues. With a shaky defense and another non suitable backup, it looks like another long year for Tuukka.
5. Can Patrice Bergeron continue to dominate? Patrice Bergeron is model of consistency. In his already 11 year career, Patrice has been a rock since day one. He’s only scored more than 30 goals twice, but that’s not his game. He’s the most complete player in the NHL, without competition. He’s won the Selke trophy three times in his career as the best defensive forward. He wins draws, leads the young guys and is the heart and soul of the team. In my eyes, he’s the real captain of this team. He kills penalties and plays the power play at the point, on the wing or out in front of the net. He plays big time when the lights are brightest in the playoffs and is as tough as they come. He’s the most underrated and under appreciated player in the NHL. Patrice turned 30 in the offseason and everyone knows that 30 is the age where athletes tend to lose a step. However, he has logged massive minutes in his career and has taken a beating doing it. But Patrice keeps himself in great shape and is a consummate professional. He’s the best player on the Bruins and I don’t think 30 will slow him down too much. The Bruins will lean on him to carry this team this year, and in years coming. I know he’s only 30, but if he stays in Boston, the Bruins might want to start stitching up a Bergeron banner to hang in the Garden.