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Are the 2023-24 Bruins a playoff staff? It comes right down to protection.


“We’re not placing as many pucks in, hopefully we will maintain them out.”

The Bruins return a lot of the similar D corps that was the most effective grouping within the NHL in 2022-23. Barry Chin / The Boston Globe

Jim Montgomery and the Bruins had a humiliation of riches at their disposal when it got here to assembling their 2022-23 lineup.

Few groups had the depth out there to fit a former Hart Trophy winner like Taylor Corridor onto their third line, whereas the shift of 60-goal scorer David Pastrnak away from his regular cohorts of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand made life depressing for opponents attempting to decelerate Boston’s top-six unit.

The 2023-24 Bruins nonetheless boast loads of high-end expertise up entrance, particularly on the wing.

However amid the uncertainty at heart following Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci’s retirements — coupled with depth sapped throughout the ahead corps following a summer season of trades and free-agent departures — Brandon Carlo said the apparent on Tuesday.

The Bruins have the items in place to area a aggressive roster this winter. However count on way more one-goal leads within the months forward as Montgomery leans on Boston’s protection and goaltending greater than ever.

“We’ve all the time centered upon the defensive facet of the sport,” Carlo stated. “That’s not going to vary. We’re not placing as many pucks in, hopefully we will maintain them out.”

It ought to come as little shock {that a} Bruins staff that rewrote the report books in 2022-23 established itself as a two-way power on the ice.

Solely Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers scored extra targets per sport (3.96) than the Bruins (3.67). However Montgomery’s membership was in a category of its personal within the D-zone — pacing the remainder of the NHL with simply 2.12 targets in opposition to per contest. The Hurricanes ranked second in the identical class … at 2.56 targets in opposition to.

For all of the constructive sentiment shared in camp about inner choices like Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle thriving in top-six roles and free-agent pickups shoring up vacancies throughout the lineup, it’s all however a provided that Boston’s potent offense is because of take a step again this winter.

In complete, the Bruins misplaced a bit of their ahead corps over the offseason that accounted for 80 targets and 210 complete factors. Even when Zacha posts a 65+ level season subsequent to Pastrnak or signings like Morgan Geekie and James van Riemsdyk cross the 40-point threshold, the Bruins nonetheless have some floor to make up on the subject of conserving tempo with final season’s juggernaut roster.

However Boston’s basis on the backend is in significantly better form. Regardless of the lack of Connor Clifton in free company (changed by veteran Kevin Shattenkirk), the Bruins are set to open camp with 5 of their six beginning D-men that helped Boston publish a 43-8-5 report earlier than the commerce deadline.

Linus Ullmark is coming off a Vezina-Trophy marketing campaign as the most effective netminder within the league. And even when some regression is in retailer for the veteran goalie, that might be countered by any extra strides that 24-year-old backup Jeremy Swayman can soak up his third full season within the NHL ranks.

Swayman was removed from a step down from Ullmark as Boston’s 1B final season, with the younger goalie’s save share on high-danger photographs (.862) really holding a slight edge over Ullmark (.859) and rating second within the league amongst eligible goalies (min. 2,000 minutes performed).

With Boston as soon as once more anchored on the blue line by two Norris Trophy candidates in Charlie McAvoy (one other 12 months faraway from offseason shoulder surgical procedure) and Hampus Lindholm, the Bruins ought to have the personnel in place to grind down opposing groups as they seek for their very own constant offensive conduits.

“I believe, our goalies, firstly, with the way in which that they’re capable of play — it provides us a leg up every evening,” Carlo famous. “It begins together with your goaltending out after which from there, we’re fortunate sufficient to have fairly just a few of the defensemen again that we had final 12 months.

“So I believe there will probably be video games the place we’re gonna should push the tempo and sort of lead. That’s sort of completely different at occasions when the forwards have been doing a terrific job final 12 months of placing the puck within the web.”

Montgomery doesn’t precisely have to do a lot tinkering on his blue line if he needs to maintain a top-four grouping of Matt Grzelcyk-Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm-Brandon Carlo intact.

For all the discourse concerning Grzelcyk’s fortitude for playoff hockey, the Bruins have to punch their ticket to the postseason first. And McAvoy is arguably at his finest when he has a poised puck mover in Grzelcyk subsequent to him, with Boston outscoring opponents, 36-15, of their 604:05 of 5v5 ice time collectively.

Lindholm and Carlo established themselves as Boston’s shutdown pair final season. Regardless of having simply 27.5% of 5v5 shifts begin within the offensive zone, the Bruins nonetheless held a 34-18 benefit in targets scored when Lindholm-Carlo skated collectively for 649:16.

Greater than something, Montgomery may have to ask much more out of his sturdy defensive personnel in 2023-24, particularly with the primary layer Boston’s D-zone protection in poised facilities like Bergeron and Tomas Nosek now not donning black-and-gold sweaters.

“I believe the place our goalies are with our D corps, we’re clearly within the prime of the league in these departments,” Montgomery stated. “It’s most likely going to rely much more on our D-men so far as how we play in our staff identification of them having extra of an influence in any respect 200 toes of the ice.

“Not solely scoring, but additionally — we had 4 facilities final 12 months that each one knew how we performed in our D zone, proper? So we killed plenty of performs due to them. We’d want them to kill much more performs within the offensive zone or within the impartial zone with their skating capability and their hockey sense and aggressive degree, so we don’t find yourself in our D zone, as a result of we don’t have those self same layers coming again.”

Boston’s protection will take successful with two-way facilities like Patrice Bergeron now not hopping over the boards. Nonetheless, Bergeron’s presence was primarily felt within the offensive zone final 12 months, with Boston’s anticipated targets scored per 60 minutes leaping from 2.58 to three.52 when he was on the ice.

The Bruins do have some game-breaking choices up entrance in names like Pastrnak, Marchand, and Jake DeBrusk.

But when the Bruins plan on charting a course again to the postseason, it’s going to should fall on Boston’s goaltending and D corps to maintain their retooling roster from taking up water, particularly out of the gate.

“There is likely to be some video games on the again finish after which throughout the web that we’re gonna should steal this 12 months,” Carlo stated. “So it’s gonna be a terrific problem, and I’m wanting ahead to that.”