With the Bruins’ season set to start tonight in New Jersey against the Devils, here are five storylines to look out for this season
How will the defense adjust to the losses of Krug and Chara?
The Bruins will be replacing Chara and Krug with youngsters Jeremy Lauzon and Jakob Zboril this season. Both were highly touted picks, (Zboril in particular), and should be poised to play big roles. Krug will be a much bigger loss with Chara, as he was an elite puck-mover and Power Play Quarterback. The combination of Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy will look to replace the offensive firepower of Krug. Pairing McAvoy with Lauzon should also free him up to be more of an offensive threat in 5 on 5 play, which brings me to our next point.
Will 5 on 5 play improve?
The biggest weakness the Bruins have had in the playoffs the last four years has been a lack of scoring depth, particularly during 5 on 5 play. Despite winning the President’s Trophy last year, the Bruins placed just 18th in goals scored 5 on 5. That just isn’t going to cut it in the playoffs when the refs keep the whistles in their pockets. The addition of Craig Smith and continued improvement from Ondrej Kase, Jake DeBrusk, and Jack Studnicka should, on paper significantly improve 5 on 5 goal scoring. This forward group is extremely deep, especially once David Pastrnak returns, and could be one of the top offensive teams in the league this year.
Power Play Woes?
Losing Torey Krug, who frequently double-shifted on the Power Play, is a huge loss for the Bruins on the extra man advantage. Krug scored or assisted on 30 of the 57 Power Play goals the Bruins scored last year. That’s a lot of production to make up for. Grzelcyk will likely get the first crack as the Quarterback of the Power Play, but I would really like to see Charlie McAvoy eventually take over the spot for good. McAvoy is supposed to be a franchise cornerstone and has lived up to the hype defensively, however, he needs to significantly improve his offensive production, and that starts on the Power Play.
Will the Rask/Halak tandum be up for the task?
Rask missing the majority of the Bruins playoff run this summer may have been a silver lining for the 2021 season. He should be fresh and ready to go this year. The big question is if Halak will up to the task. At 35 years old, the netminder is getting long in the tooth and is coming off a pretty poor playoff run. With the short layoff, Halak may not be sharp to start the season.
The tumultuous week the NBA is having with COVID cases has shown us that there will undoubtedly be a plethora of cases this season. The question is, will the Bruins have enough depth to withstand temporary losses? Defensively, they should be set, with guys like Connor Clifton, Urho Vaakanainen, and John Moore as healthy scratches to withstand losses. Forwards are another story. Par Lindholm and one of Anders Bjork or Nick Ritchie will likely be on the sidelines once Pastrnak returns. That’s not ideal. Hopefully, the limited travel will lead to significantly fewer cases than the NBA, but players are going to need to be extremely disciplined to make this work.