Season Preview: Boston Bruins
The 2014 Presidents Trophy winners remain one of, if not the, strongest teams in the East and will be considered serious contenders heading in to the new season.
But Montreal’s 7 game series win over the Boston last season highlighted not only the Canadian clubs kryptonite-esque effect on the Bruins, but also their frailties.
Will a lack of cap space, difficult free agent decisions and a dearth of offseason additions derail the Bruins season? Or can Claude Julien’s side capture another Stanley Cup?
Led by perennial Selke candidate Patrice Bergeron, Boston still possess one of the strongest groups of forwards in the league.
Dave Krejci, who is in the final year of his present deal, led the team in scoring last term and was the play-offs leading scorer in two of the past four seasons. Milan Lucic remains one of the NHL’s most formidable players. And Loui Eriksson, somehow, remains one of the most underrated stars in the NHL.
Then there is uber-pest Brad Marchand and fellow Cup winners Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell. RFA Reilly Smith displayed his talents with a 20 goals, 51 point campaign, while Carl Soderberg also impressed last season.
Add in prospects Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak, and Boston has an embarrassment of riches at its disposal, even with Jarome Iginla departing and Marc Savard’s career effectively over.
At The Back
Zdeno Chara remains the Bruins defensive corner stone, but looked worn down by the end of last season. Dennis Seidenberg’s return to fitness will go a long way to easing the burden on the 37-year old, while Johnny Boychuck remains an effective defenceman for the franchise.
Perhaps the clubs biggest test this year will be how they handle Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug. Hamilton is entering the last year of his entry deal, whilst sophmore Krug is still an RFA at the time of writing – they scored a combined 21 goals and 65 points last season and represent a large part of the Bruins future.
If the Bruins imposing defence is to maintain its mystique, it needs to ensure a smooth transition from young stars to key pieces for the two youngsters.
Between The Pipes
Tuukka Rask won the Vezina Trophy last season. He is good enough to win it again, perhaps multiple times, and at 27 is only just entering his prime.
That said, last season was the first time he’d played more than 50 games in an NHL season, and only the second time in his career. Even adding in the Olympics and the Finn only played 62 games between October and April. Whilst this is by no means a ‘heavy’ workload for an NHL #1, the relative safety net of Chad Johnson (who went 17-4-3 last season) is gone and Swede Niklas Svedberg has just a single NHL game to his name.
The likelihood is that Rask will take it all in his stride, as he has done everything else since being selected 21st overall by Toronto in 2005, but a dip in form or an injury to the Finn could hit the Bruins hard.
Behind The Bench
Entering his 8th season with the Bruins, Claude Julien already has four Divisional titles, a Presidents Trophy and a Stanley Cup to his name – and will pass the 400 wins mark this year.
A little over 12 months removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance, the Bruins windows for another Cup may only last as long as Zdeno Chara does. One of Julien’s main tasks this season is likely to be helping a team with the big Slovak win again, but also helping prepare it for life without him.
Biggest Addition – Dennis Seidenberg
Whilst the clubs cap situation allowed for exactly zero free agent signings this summer, getting Seidernberg back from injury may be just as good.
The German blue liner missed 44 regular season games and the entire post season following knee surgery, but has been a steadying influence on the teams blue line since arriving from Florida in 2010.
Biggest Loss – Cap Space
Even with Marc Savard’s $4,027,143 assigned to the LTIR, Boston will be closer to the ceiling than their 6’9″ captain. It makes signing Smith and Krug tough now, as well as creating headaches next summer when no less than 11 players hit free agency of one form or another.
Key Man – Zdeno Chara
Chara is a Norris capable D man who can, and will, play in every situation for the Bruins. If he is healthy and in form, Boston takes a significant step towards another Cup.
Firmly in the back nine of his career, Chara began to show the strain towards the end of last season – with a hand injury sustained early in the series against Montreal further hampering his impact.
In many respect, as Chara goes, so go the Bruins.
This Seasons Chances…
There is no question Boston is a contender this season. They possess great talent among their forwards, a strong top 4 on the blue line and an elite netminder – as well as some impressive depth.
The biggest challenge this year is for GM Peter Chiarelli to make everything fits under the cap – which may mean sacrificing some of that talent now to avoid catastrophe down the road.
Posted on August 28, 2014, in Boston Bruins, Hockey, NHL, Season Previews 2014 and tagged Boston Bruins, Claude Julien, Dennis Seidenberg, NHL, Season Preview, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.