May 27, 2024

3 questions facing Boston Bruins

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 32 teams from Aug. 1-Sept. 1. Today, three important questions facing the Boston Bruins.

 

[Bruins 32 in 32: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy projections]

 

1. How do you follow up on a historic season that ended in disappointment?

The Bruins are coming off a truly great regular season, one in which they set the NHL record for wins (65) and points (135). But then they lost in seven games to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference First Round, dashing their hopes of raising the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2011.

However, much like the two teams it surpassed in wins, the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning (62) and 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings (62), Boston has a chance to bounce back and right the wrong.

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2020, and the Red Wings won it in 1997. Can the Bruins do the same?

 

2. What happens down the middle?

For the past 15-plus years, the Bruins have been able to rely on an impressive one-two punch in their top six: Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But with Bergeron retired and Krejci likely to follow, Boston will need to elevate two centers to a position with more responsibility than they’ve ever had.

The likely two, barring a late move, will be Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle, and the Bruins’ season may rise and fall based on the performances of those two centers. Zacha broke out during his first season with Boston, setting NHL career highs in goals (21), assists (36) and points (57) in 82 games. Coyle, meanwhile, had 45 points (16 goals, 29 assists) in 82 games, the second-most of his NHL career (56 with the Minnesota Wild in 2016-17).

However, by losing two franchise stalwarts, the Bruins will be without valuable experience and leadership, and that, combined with their on-ice abilities, will be difficult, if not impossible, to replicate.

Video: Crew talk Bergeron retiring after 19 seasons

 

3. How does the goalie split play out?

The Bruins got all they could have asked for out of goalie Linus Ullmark last season. The 30-year-old won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie after going 40-6-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average, .938 save percentage and two shutouts in 49 games (48 starts). Ullmark, along with Jeremy Swayman, who went 24-6-4 with a 2.27 GAA, .920 save percentage and four shutouts, also won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the fewest goals allowed.

But can they do it again? And with Swayman, 24, likely representing the future of the position in Boston, would the Bruins consider moving Ullmark if that becomes a necessity in order to shore up other positions, like center?

For now, they are going into this season with Ullmark and Swayman, but it’s yet to be determined whether Ullmark can replicate his Vezina-winning performance or whether Swayman might seize control of the No. 1 spot.

Either way, the Bruins are going to need a strong performance in net, seeing as though they may take a step back offensively.

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