5 questions that may outline the Bruins’ 2023-24 season


“I nonetheless really feel fairly assured about our membership.”

Boston Bruins' Charlie Coyle (13) is congratulated for his goal against the New York Rangers during the second period of an NHL preseason hockey game Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, in New York.
Charlie Coyle is anticipated to log top-six minutes for the Bruins in 2023-24. AP Photograph/Frank Franklin II

With the beginning of the Bruins’ 2023-24 season simply days away, let’s delve into a couple of urgent questions that may decide whether or not or not this reworked roster has what it takes to punch its ticket again to the playoffs.

Can the Bruins’ overhauled heart corps hold driving play?

Patrice Bergeron isn’t strolling by means of that door. David Krejci isn’t strolling by means of that door.

However for the entire fears of a steep drop-off for the Bruins following the retirement of two franchise pillars, the 2023-24 Bruins nonetheless boast a aggressive roster that ought to stay afloat in a cutthroat Atlantic Division.

Boston remains to be buoyed by arguably the very best 1-2 punch between the pipes in Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, whereas a majority of the group’s league-leading protection from final season stays intact.

Even with a big expertise drain up entrance over the summer time, Boston nonetheless wields loads of game-breaking expertise on the wing within the type of David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Jake DeBrusk.

However despite the fact that Boston’s flooring may be mapped out as a stingy defensive membership able to grinding out factors at a gradual clip, it stays to be seen what the Bruins’ ceiling is as a viable contender this winter.

We possible gained’t get that reply till we decide if facilities like Charlie Coyle, Pavel Zacha, and probably even Matthew Poitras can step into the top-six voids created by Bergeron and Krejci’s exits.

The first hurdle for Boston’s breakout preseason star in Poitras is to easily stick round within the NHL past his upcoming nine-game pattern measurement. Nonetheless, his poise with the puck and high-end abilities gives hope that the Bruins have one other potential top-six heart within the pipeline — be it this winter or the subsequent season.

However as Boston waits in anticipation to see if Poitras can proceed to defy expectations, the onus goes to fall on each Coyle and Zacha to drive play and praise some high-end forwards within the top-six unit out of the gate.

If Jim Montgomery desires to reinforce a ahead trio of Zacha, Pastrnak, and James van Riemsdyk into an O-zone heavy scoring grouping, the outcomes might be promising.

Getting paired with a 60+ aim scorer in Pastrnak will definitely assist Zacha ease into his new position. However Zacha was spectacular in his personal proper final season — surpassing his earlier career-high in scoring by 21 factors and rating second on the group in whole 5v5 factors, forward of names like Bergeron and Marchand.

In 12 video games final yr the place Zacha changed Krejci as Boston’s second-line heart, he scored 4 objectives and posted 10 factors. The Bruins have been an ideal 12-0-0 over that prolonged stretch.

A puck-possession pivot like Coyle might type an efficient two-way grouping subsequent to Marchand and DeBrusk.

Regardless of beginning within the offensive zone throughout 33.2 p.c of his 5v5 reps in 2022-23, the Bruins nonetheless outscored opponents, 51-32, when Coyle was out on the ice for over 1,070 minutes. That very same stout defensive play in 2023-24 may be additional complemented with authentic playmakers in Marchand and DeBrusk.

The Bruins now not have the luxurious of penciling in arguably the very best defensive ahead in NHL historical past and a near-800-point scorer of their top-six heart grouping transferring ahead. However Boston believes its remaining skaters down the center have the correct talent units required to maintain the group afloat up entrance.

“I nonetheless really feel fairly assured about our membership, however clearly while you lose your prime two centermen, and that’s an enormous hole to fill, it’s very tough to exchange considered one of them — not to mention two, particularly when you’ve got some cap constraints like we did,” Cam Neely stated Monday. “We have been planning for it. I imply we knew these guys have been finally going to retire.

“However we nonetheless have some high quality NHL gamers in our lineup which have performed within the Nationwide Hockey League, performed the middle place. Now it’s actually a matter of can they elevate their sport to a degree the place we are able to get some offense out of it.”

Can the Bruins’ protection, goaltending sustain its lofty requirements? 

Brandon Carlo may need stated it finest earlier this month when requested about Boston’s strengths in 2023-24.

“We’ve at all times centered upon the defensive facet of the sport,” the Bruins’ stay-at-home defenseman famous. “That’s not going to alter. We’re not placing as many pucks in, hopefully we are able to hold them out. … “There is likely to be some video games on the again finish after which throughout the web that we’re gonna need to steal this yr. So it’s gonna be an important problem, and I’m trying ahead to that.”

In whole, the Bruins misplaced a bit of their ahead corps over the offseason that accounted for 80 objectives and 210 whole factors. As a substitute of cruising to 4-1 victories, Boston may have to grind out 2-1 contests at a gradual clip.

If Boston realistically desires to punch its ticket again to the postseason, it’s going to want final yr’s league-leading protection to not present any cracks.

The Bruins return 5 of the six beginning defensemen who led the NHL in objectives in opposition to (2.12 objectives in opposition to per sport) final season and helped Boston put up a 43-8-5 report earlier than the group even went out and added Dmitry Orlov to the combo. The stingy zone protection first carried out by Claude Julien and tweaked underneath Bruce Cassidy stays in place.

The Bruins have been the very best group within the league when it got here to suppressing photographs and negating scoring possibilities in Grade-A ice final season.

A D corps nonetheless anchored by two Norris-caliber blueliners in Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm might want to proceed to carry their very own, whereas the continued improvement of Mason Lohrei in Windfall shall be monitored.

In web, it’s to be anticipated for Linus Ullmark to bear a little bit of a regression after taking dwelling the Vezina Trophy final season. However even when there’s a dip, Jeremy Swayman might have loads extra room to develop as Boston’s major backup.

Can children ship?

The Bruins should lean on a longtime crop of NHLers with a purpose to drive play out of the gate in 2023-24.

However after a preseason filled with surprises, the Bruins might obtain a much-needed injection of younger expertise this season due to a bunch of prospects poised for NHL reps.

All eyes shall be fixated on Matthew Poitras out of the gate, with the 19-year-old pivot going from a long-shot candidate to a possible middle-six fixture that has drawn comparisons to Mitch Marner.

Boston can have 9 video games to find out if Poitras has what it takes to leapfrog the AHL and go proper from juniors to a full-time position within the NHL. After these 9 video games, Boston must both hold him on the roster (and burn the primary yr of his entry-level contract) or ship him again all the way down to the OHL’s Guelph Storm.

“We attempt to mood expectations internally and externally by way of what we anticipate from a younger participant …Simply seeing what he might deal with [and] how he’s going to reply the subsequent day,” Don Sweeney stated of dealing with younger gamers like Poitras. “That’ll be the continued problem for any younger participant that consistency is absolutely the benchmark.

“Whether or not or not you’ll be able to survive and play within the Nationwide Hockey League and transfer ahead. That shall be a seamless analysis for him and on this case, Johnny Beecher as effectively, or any younger participant all through our lineup and the gamers that we’ve within the group.”

Whereas expectations ought to be tempered by way of Poitras’ capability to maintain up his sturdy play night time in and night time out, he’s accomplished little to dissuade from the truth that he’s prepared for a bigger position in 2023-24. And if he sticks, his presence might create a constructive domino impact — particularly if it pushes Coyle again all the way down to his common spot at third-line heart.

Aside from Poitras, Johnny Beecher will look to solidify a spot on a probably bruising fourth line subsequent to Milan Lucic and Jakub Lauko — who posted seven factors and drew 11 penalties in simply 23 video games final season.

Regardless that Lohrei simply missed the minimize for NHL reps out of the gate, the 22-year-old blueliner might be in place for a mid-season call-up if he makes the a lot of the sizable minutes out there to him with Windfall.

Can particular groups ship? 

Jim Montgomery’s emphasis on high quality over amount by way of shot choice paid dividends for the 2022-23 Bruins, who’ve frequently struggled with producing regular 5v5 scoring over the previous few seasons.

However the bedrock of Boston’s success for the final 5+ years has revolved round a deadly power-play unit and stout penalty-kill personnel.

Boston paced the pack with a 87.3% kill price in shorthanded conditions final season, with gamers like Charlie Coyle, Brandon Carlo, and Derek Forbort as soon as once more known as on to assist hold Boston’s defensive integrity intact. This season might additionally open the door for extra alternatives on the PK for youthful skaters like Lauko and Beecher.

Given Boston’s anticipated regression this season in its scoring capabilities, a potent power-play group stands as a necessity. Boston’s man benefit did dip final season (twelfth total, 22.2%), however any unit anchored by a prime sniper like Pastrnak ought to nonetheless be capable of land punches.

Boston’s energy play is ready so as to add a couple of new wrinkles to its energy play, with a left-shot skater in Zacha taking up for Bergeron within the bumper, in addition to a poised netfront participant in James van Riemsdyk added to the highest grouping.

Can a revamped supporting forged maintain its personal? 

Jim Montgomery and the Bruins now not have the luxurious of slotting a former Hart Trophy winner like Taylor Corridor on the third line.

However after a bargain-bin purchasing spree in free company, the Bruins are hoping {that a} reworked supporting forged can both take one other step ahead — or rekindle a few of their prime play from yesteryear.

As intriguing because it is likely to be to think about a situation the place gamers like Poitras or Lohrei immediately morph into affect gamers, the Bruins are going to want free-agent pickups like Morgan Geekie, Milan Lucic, James van Riemsdyk, and Kevin Shattenkirk to carry up their finish of the discount at important junctures of the depth chart.

Amongst returning expertise, the Bruins will obtain a significant enhance if DeBrusk can stay wholesome and surpass the 30-goal threshold (setting himself up for a hefty contract within the course of), whereas Trent Frederic might want to construct off of final yr’s beneficial properties and develop right into a line-driver within the backside six.