With the Bruins’ 2023-24 season set to get underway on Wednesday night time, let’s run by a few of our daring predictions for a revamped roster that includes loads of new faces — however nonetheless entrenched by just a few franchise fixtures.
1. Matthew Poitras performs all the season with the Bruins
As soon as thought-about an extended shot to even sniff the NHL as a 19-year-old prospect, Poitras accelerated his timeline after acing each take a look at that Jim Montgomery and Co. handed him throughout 5 preseason video games. Boston now has 9 video games to find out if Poitras can endure the punishment that comes with an 82-game gauntlet within the NHL ranks.
Though questions stay about whether or not the 5-11, 180-pound ahead can maintain his personal night time in and night time out at hockey’s highest degree, the 2022 second-round decide has achieved little to dissuade from the notion that he belongs.
Not solely does Poitras stick round past his upcoming nine-game trial, he ultimately finishes the 12 months skating on a second line with Brad Marchand and Jake DeBrusk — with Charlie Coyle slotted right down to the third line.
Boston’s dearth of succesful choices at heart following Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci’s retirement has loomed over this Authentic Six franchise for years. It may need taken the Bruins only a few months to search out one in-house answer.
2. Mason Lohrei performs 40+ video games within the NHL
For all the rancour concerning Mason Lohrei’s demotion to Windfall simply forward of Boston’s season opener, Bruins followers actually shouldn’t fret.
After accelerating his developmental timeline with a formidable preseason slate, Boston’s prime blueline prospect will profit from logging 25+ minutes an evening within the AHL to open the brand new season, particularly with Lohrei probably getting the keys to the P-Bruins’ power-play unit.
“Mason had an ideal 12 months,” Montgomery mentioned of the message to Lohrei after getting assigned to Windfall. “The message is, we’re actually deep on the again finish, and for him to get the minutes he wants for his growth, he must go down and play some important minutes in Windfall. For us, we all know he’s gonna be a giant a part of our future. We’ve seen it. He’s a extremely good hockey participant. It’s only a matter of time.”
Lohrei provides super promise as a poised playmaker on the again finish with a 6-foot-5 body that may proceed to fill out over time. After constructing on his recreation below heavy reps in Windfall, Lohrei ultimately earns a call-up to Boston in January and sticks round all season.
3. Milan Lucic wins seventh Participant Award
No, he’s not the identical top-six juggernaut he was throughout his prime years in Boston. However be it nostalgia or the cacophony of cheers that may rain down from the Backyard seats every time he drops the gloves, Lucic runs away with the fan voting for the seventh Participant Award, handed out yearly to the participant who exceeds expectations in 2023-24.
In actuality, the award ought to go to both Poitras or Jakub Lauko, who brews up chaos each time he hops over the boards (11 drawn penalties in 23 video games).
4. Bruins lead the NHL in penalty minutes
Even with some high-end expertise up entrance within the type of gamers like David Pastrnak, the Bruins don’t have the ability sprinkled throughout the depth chart to constantly burn groups on the frenzy and through highlight-reel O-zone sequences.
However as Boston depends on its top-six unit to drive the bus so far as its offense is anxious, Don Sweeney added loads of beef the workforce’s lineup within the type of Lucic (6-foot-3, 236 kilos), James Van Riemsdyk (6-foot-3, 208 kilos), and Morgan Geekie (6-foot-3, 203 kilos).
With a confirmed bruiser in Trent Frederic (6-foot-3, 220 kilos) on the third line and two fleet-footed, bodily skaters becoming a member of Lucic on the checking unit in Lauko (6-foot-1, 193 kilos) and Johnny Beecher (6-foot-3, 216 kilos), anticipate Boston to land loads of welts in opposition to opponents as they attempt to grind groups down with extra methodical, punishing forecheck.
5. Jeremy Swayman begins extra video games than Linus Ullmark
It’s to be anticipated for there to be a little bit of regression for Ullmark after a stellar 2022-23 season that ended with a Vezina Trophy. However even when Ullmark dips from his video-game statline (40-6-1 report, 1.89 GAA, .938 save share), Swayman is much from only a backup plan as Boston’s “1B” between the pipes.
In 37 video games final season, Swayman went 24-6-4 with a .920 save share, 2.27 GAA, and 4 shutouts. Swayman’s underlying metrics have been simply as sterling. Among the many 36 NHL netminders who logged a minimum of 2,000 minutes of ice time final season, the Alaskan native ranked second within the NHL in high-danger save share (.863), per Pure Stat Trick.
Given Swayman’s age (24), already spectacular NHL outcomes, and the added motivation amid settling for a one-year deal this summer season after an arbitration listening to, the younger netminder ought to take one other step ahead this winter and assert himself because the Bruins’ prime possibility in web.
6. Jake DeBrusk indicators a brand new extension earlier than Jan. 1
As soon as a promising (and inconsistent) passenger in a top-six function, the Bruins are relying on DeBrusk to drive play on a line with one other expert winger in Brad Marchand. Had he not missed six weeks as a result of a damaged fibula throughout the 2023 Winter Basic, DeBrusk was on tempo for 35 targets in 2022-23, whereas additionally averaging 1:22 of shorthanded ice time per contest.
Even with Bergeron out of the equation, a wholesome DeBrusk lastly crosses the 30-goal threshold this season. And as Boston continues to try to bolster their basis for the post-Bergeron period, Sweeney and Co. in the end hand a pending UFA in DeBrusk a contract much like the eight-year, $52 million extension that the Lightning crafted for Brandon Hagel in August.
With the cap ceiling set to surge subsequent summer season, it doesn’t take lengthy for the contract to settle comfortably into more-than-fair market worth.
7. The Bruins commerce a defenseman
If Lohrei makes a reputable push for NHL reps later this winter, one thing’s received to offer on Boston’s blue line.
With Matt Grzelcyk and Derek Forbort set to hit free company subsequent summer season, each blueliners may very well be expendable as a way to clear a path for Lohrei. Though Grzelcyk has been a divisive participant for some Bruins followers, his versatility, puck-moving prowess and his chemistry with McAvoy make him an asset that Boston shouldn’t half with for pennies on the greenback.
8. Brad Marchand nonetheless posts 90+ penalty minutes
Brad Marchand is cognizant of the stress and weight that comes with getting the “C” stitched onto his sweater.
However even with the decorum that comes with the captaincy, don’t anticipate Marchand to be within the operating for the Woman Byng Trophy any time quickly.
“It’s one thing that … it’s gonna proceed to [be a] work in progress,” Marchand mentioned of holding his feelings in test final month. “I positively don’t anticipate to step in and be excellent off the hop. I do play with a sure kind of ardour and emotion. I received’t lose that. That’s simply who I’m.
“And I’ll have to proceed to do this to be a great participant on this league. It’s allowed me to achieve success and I don’t wish to get away from that. I simply alluded to it, the fellows that I’ve seen put on the C for this workforce, the hassle that goes into it — you are able to do it many various methods.”
Marchand’s prickly perspective, relentless competitiveness, and nonstop motor elevated him from a fourth-line pest to top-line celebrity. Don’t anticipate that to alter this season, at the same time as Boston’s captain.
If something, anticipate that to rub off on the remainder of a Bruins roster hungry to take out final 12 months’s frustrations on the remainder of the league.
9. Pavel Zacha surpasses 65 factors
Zacha was one among Boston’s prime surprises final season, surpassing his earlier career-high in scoring by 21 factors (57 over 82 video games) whereas skating subsequent to Pastrnak and David Krejci.
Even with out Krejci orchestrating probabilities within the offensive zone, Zacha ought to nonetheless have the ability to rack up factors with Pastrnak stapled to his hip in Boston’s top-six grouping.
In 12 video games final season the place Zacha changed Krejci as Boston’s second-line heart, he scored 4 targets and posted 10 factors. The Bruins have been an ideal 12-0-0 over that prolonged stretch.
With Zacha additionally the primary in line to take over for Bergeron on the “bumper” place on the highest power-play unit, Zacha units a brand new scoring threshold for the second time in as many seasons.
10. Charlie McAvoy is runner-up for Norris Trophy
After being restricted to 67 video games final season whereas recovering from main offseason shoulder surgical procedure, McAvoy as soon as once more establishes himself as some of the impactful blueliners within the NHL in 2023-24.
“He has much more confidence in what he’s doing,” Montgomery mentioned of McAvoy. “It simply looks like as a result of there’s no doubts. ‘Is my shoulder prepared for this’ or ‘can I deal with this and did my coaching camp put together me?’ He didn’t have a coaching camp [last season]. So all these questions are gone, and he’s simply enjoying.”
With McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm — who finishes fourth in Norris Trophy voting final season — anchoring separate D pairs, the Bruins can have arguably a top-10 defenseman on the ice for least 40-odd minutes of a 60-minute contest.
11. Bruins aren’t consumers on the deadline…
However they’re additionally not sellers, not with the workforce within the playoff combine. Aside from probably transferring a blueliner as a way to carve out a path for Lohrei, don’t anticipate the Bruins to relinquish extra draft capital and property in March, particularly if it might require transferring a blue-chip prospect like Poitras.
With extra cap area on the horizon and a longtime core already in place, the Bruins sit this deadline feeding frenzy out and let their youthful gamers proceed to develop.
12. Extra seasoning wanted for different Windfall kids
A much-needed youth motion is likely to be underway in Boston with each Poitras and Beecher breaking camp — and Lohrei not far behind. However don’t anticipate different promising prospects like Fabian Lysell or Georgii Merkulov to finish the season in set roles up on the NHL ranks.
Lysell and Merkulov nonetheless want loads of seasoning with Windfall, with Lysell specifically needing extra reps at simply 20 years outdated.
13. The Bruins nonetheless boast a top-five protection … however their offense takes a step again
The Bruins nonetheless boast arguably one of the best 1-2 punch in web in Ullmark and Swayman. 5 of the six beginning defensemen on a unit that led the NHL in targets in opposition to per recreation (2.12) final season are again.
Boston will want a while to domesticate chemistry on a reworked ahead corps, particularly with a left-shot skater in Zacha including a brand new wrinkle on the ability play.
With the departures of Bergeron, Krejci, Tyler Bertuzzi, Taylor Corridor, and others, it’s to be anticipated for Boston’s offensive firepower to dip from final 12 months’s spectacular outcomes (3.67 targets in opposition to per recreation).
However even when Boston’s scoring output drops from second within the NHL to extra in the midst of the pack, a stingy D-zone construction ought to nonetheless maintain the Bruins afloat in additional one-goal contests.
14. The Bruins end second general within the Atlantic
No, the 2023-24 Bruins are usually not higher than final 12 months’s roster.
However as Boston continues to snuff out scoring probabilities and Ullmark/Swayman stand tall, the Bruins ought to have sufficient firepower up entrance (particularly with O-zone cheat codes like Pastrnak) to stay entrenched as viable playoff contender, particularly if pivots like Zacha and Poitras hit.
The Atlantic Division ought to as soon as once more be a rock struggle, however the Lightning have their very own depth points, coupled with a regarding again damage for Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Boston is aware of full nicely to not underestimate the Panthers this season. However Florida can also be set to open the 12 months with each Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour on the shelf as a result of accidents, whereas two different key cogs on protection in Radko Gudas and Marc Staal left in free company.
15. Boston wins a minimum of one playoff spherical
Oh, hockey — you unpredictable, silly, incredible sport.
The 2023-24 Bruins could not have as a lot pure expertise as different B’s squads over the previous few years. However with a bodily ahead corps complementing a stout protection and a goalie tandem that Jim Montgomery sticks to within the postseason, this workforce goes additional within the playoff bracket than final years’ record-setting bunch.
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