This post is part of Bruins Day on PHT…
The Boston Bruins were finally able to end their two-year playoff drought last season, but they were bounced in the opening round by the Ottawa Senators.
Things were looking bleak for them during the season until management decided it was time to let go of Claude Julien. They replaced him with Bruce Cassidy, who was able to get them back on track.
But what are the expectations for Cassidy and his team this year? Can they do more than just make the playoffs?
The Bruins showed us that they’re one of the premiere possession teams in the NHL. Last year, they ranked second in the league in CF%, fourth in total shot attempts and first in shots against.
No matter what you think of possession stats, you have to believe that they’ll have some measure of success if they’re able to post similar numbers next season.
Looking at Boston’s roster, it’s clear that they have the necessary star power to be competitive in the Eastern Conference.
Patrice Bergeron‘s point total may have dropped in 2016-17 (53 points in 79 games), but he’s still an elite two-way center that every team would love to have. Both Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak provide their team with excellent offensive production on the wings, while David Krejci can be a quality second-line center when healthy.
On defense, Zdeno Chara is definitely not the player he once was, but the Bruins finally have some good, young defensemen that can also contribute. Brandon Carlo had a very good rookie season and Charlie McAvoy wowed the hockey world with his performance in the playoffs.
Carlo played in every single game of the regular season in his first year. He finished with six goals, 10 assists and a plus-9 rating, while averaging 20:48 per game. He was so impressive that the Bruins trusted him to play alongside Chara for a good chunk of the year. Taking another big step forward in 2017-18 would be huge for his team’s chances of making a long run.
McAvoy didn’t play in any games during the season because he was at Boston University. Once his NCAA campaign came to an end, he played four games with AHL Providence before making the jump to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Not only did he hold his own in the postseason, he also managed to pick up three assists in the six games while averaging over 26 minutes of ice time (he played over 31 minutes in Game 5 against Ottawa). It’s still a little early, but it certainly looks like McAvoy has the potential to become a number one defenseman in the near future.
Between the pipes, Tuukka Rask has had his share of ups and downs. Now, it’s time for him to put together another consistent year. When Rask is rolling, the Bruins can compete with anyone. But when he’s in a slump, it’s hard for them to be competitive on a nightly basis.
Boston doesn’t have another goalie in their organization that can play at as high a level as Rask does when he’s on his game. So if Rask struggles like he did at times in 2016-17, they don’t have anyone else to turn to.
Even though they have some high-end talent, the biggest question mark surrounding Boston’s roster is depth. Competing with some of the deeper teams in the conference might be a problem.
The free-agent signings of David Backes and Matt Beleskey look silly at this point. Backes put up a respectable 17 goals and 38 points in 74 games last season, but he has four years remaining on his contract at a cap hit of $6 million. Yeah, that contract looks like it’s gonna hurt.
As for Beleskey, he comes with a much more manageable cap hit of $3.8 million, but he still has three years remaining on his contract, and he’s proven to be a major flop. The 29-year-old had just three goals and eight points in 49 games.
Both veterans were expected to provide the Bruins with some depth behind their bigger names. Unfortunately, things just haven’t worked out that way.
They also have some quality on the blue line with Torey Krug, McAvoy and Carlo, but they’re a little thin after that. Chara isn’t getting younger, Adam McQuaid isn’t getting faster, and Kevan Miller and Paul Postma are nothing more than depth players.
Getting quality performances from Krug, McAvoy and Carlo will be key if they want to last longer than one round next spring.
Alright, it’s time for you to have your say. Have a vote, but also feel free to leave a note in the comments section.