Optimism in Beantown: 2017-2018 Boston Bruins season preview

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 23: David Backes
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 23: David Backes /

The Boston Bruins clawed their way back into the playoffs in 2016-2017. What fortunes will this season hold for them?

We’re about 6 weeks out from when the Boston Bruins open their season against the defending Western Conference Champion Nashville Predators on October 5, 2017.  With camps all but done, and the preseason about to start, it seems like a perfect time for a season preview for the ’17-’18 edition of the Bs.

For those with short memories, after a two year absence, the Bruins made the playoffs as the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic division.  While that felt good for fans, it’s worth noting that with 95 points, the team had only one more point than the ’15-’16 season, and one point less than the ’14-’15 season.

After a back-and-forth first round series, all while missing key pieces in Torey Krug and David Krejci, the Bs were eliminated in the first round by the Ottawa Senators.  The Senators went on to the Eastern Conference finals, and ultimately lost to the back-to-back Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Key Additions for ’17-’18

BOSTON, MA – APRIL 23: Charlie McAvoy
BOSTON, MA – APRIL 23: Charlie McAvoy /

Looking at the roster, the Bruins didn’t really add much in the way of immediate NHLers during the offseason.  I guess you could throw Charlie McAvoy in there, since he signed his entry-level deal in March and only played for the Bruins in their 6 playoff games.  This guy is going to be a star defenseman soon in the NHL, possibly a cornerstone piece of the franchise like Zdeno Chara has been for years.  Proof you ask?  As a stone-cold rookie, he tallied 3 assists in his first 6 NHL games on the biggest stage, in the playoffs; all while playing first-pair minutes and playing well defensively.  As Matt Larkin of The Sporting News states, and I 100% agree:

"“If the 2016 draft rebooted today, McAvoy might jump from 14th into the top five. His talent is unmistakable, and his flaws are the kind that can be coached away.”"

The only other notable addition to speak of was the signing of Anders Bjork to a three-year entry deal.  Many Bruins fans were concerned he would return to Notre Dame for his senior season, effectively then making him a free agent in the NHL.  An absolute STEAL in the 5th round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Bjork turned into a NCAA Hockey superstar this past season.  He will likely be competing for a spot on the big club’s roster, and could see ice time in the NHL this season.

Key Losses for ’17-’18

OTTAWA, ON – APRIL 21: Dominic Moore
OTTAWA, ON – APRIL 21: Dominic Moore /

As amazing as it is to say, arguably the biggest loss for the Bruins in the offseason may have been

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their 4th line center.  Dominic Moore signed a one-year contract at $1 million with the division rival Toronto Maple Leafs this offseason.  Moore was one of those players that seemed to make those who played on his wings better.  Watching him play, he never took a shift off.  He posted a very respectable 11-14–25 stat line as a 4th line, penalty-killing specialist.  While our forward depth is something to be admired, there’s something to be said about having a tough, veteran guy in your bottom-six forwards to keep an eye on the young guys.

Sure, the Bruins lost Colin Miller to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft.  But when it comes to the grand scheme of things, losing Miller in the long run likely won’t significantly impact the Boston Bruins, give the bevy of young blue-line talent the team has ready to go.

Cause for Optimism on Causeway?

The takeaway from the previous two sections is that the Bruins team that made the playoffs last season is more-or-less the team that fans will see on the ice this season.  Yes, Zdeno Chara is one year older; but that same fact applies to players like Noel Acciari and Frank Vatrano.  These are just two of the potential young guys who could be full-time NHLers this season and have benefited from adding a year of maturity and experience.

DALLAS, TX – FEBRUARY 26: Tuukka Rask
DALLAS, TX – FEBRUARY 26: Tuukka Rask /

Brad Marchand had a breakout season last year (39-46–85), and David Pastrnak is doing everything he can to make Boston Bruins fans forget about Tyler Seguin.  Patrice Bergeron will probably win the Selke Trophy again this season, and you can usually pencil David Krejci in for 60 points (when healthy).  Tuukka Rask has all the skills to be an elite NHL goalie, which he proved in ’13-’14 when he posted crazy good numbers (36 wins, 2.00 GAA, 0.930 Save%).

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Overall, here’s how I could see a potential opening night line-up, assuming a fully healthy roster, subject to slight modification depending on who makes the team out of camp:

  • Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak
    Beleskey-Forsbacka Karlsson-Vatrano
  • Chara-Carlo
  • Rask

The Predictions

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Last season, the Bruins showed signs of brilliance at times, and appeared to be a contender to win the Atlantic Division.  But just as often as they appeared brilliant, they appeared lackluster and seemed to be missing something.  So what will make this season different?

I sincerely believe that we will see a significant increase in overall team chemistry, given the fact that most of last year’s team is intact.  The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line could end up being one of the best lines in all of hockey by the end of the season.  If McAvoy and Carlo play to their potential, the Top-4 Bruins defensemen could be up there with the likes of Nashville (Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, P.K. Subban, and Mattias Ekholm).

Overall record:  48-24-10 (106 points)
Division standing:  1st in Atlantic
Other:  Brad Marchand is Hart Trophy finalist; Patrice Bergeron wins Selke Trophy; Charlie McAvoy is a Calder Trophy finalist; deep run into the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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If the Bruins play to their potential this season, the sky is the limit.  Will I hold my breath for the Bruins to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Boston this season?  No; but at the same time, I won’t be surprised in the least if it does happen.