The Boston Bruins are definitely a team to watch this coming season. They are young, fast, and deep at forward – helped by the return of Patrice Bergeron, and are solid on the back end. Tim Thomas proved last year that he is a legitimate NHL goalie. He has one year left on his deal in Boston, which will coincide nicely with the debut of heavily touted Tuukka Rask in 2009-2010. What can be expected from Boston this season? Read on…
Up front, the Bruins will again be led by the slick Marc Savard. It took him a few years to establish himself among the best centers in the game, but he is definitely there now. Savard will return to 90+ points and is the straw that stirs the drink for the Bruins offense. Whoever he plays with (likely Sturm and Ryder) will see an increase in numbers. The Bruins paid a heavy price to get Ryder, especially after his poor season in 2007-2008. He is very familiar with coach Claude Julien from both Montreal and his junior days. Ryder’s shoot first mentality will complement Savard very well – look for him to return to 30 goals. Sturm is extremely consistent at 25-30 goals, so expect a total around there.
The second line will be aided by the return of Bergeron. He may start off at wing, thanks to the emergence of David Krejci. Bergeron is a horse who will produce 65 points at worst if he can stay healthy. He isn’t extremely flashy but is solid and has few – if any – holes in his game. Milan Lucic and Phil Kessel are also contenders to man the wings on this line. Both are young, both have upside (albeit much different), and both showed glimpses last year of what they could potentially become. Lucic has a heavy shot and an underrated eye for the offensive zone to go with his brute force, and Kessel can skate and stickhandle like a magician – he juts doesn’t think the game that well.
The third line will have some pop on it as well. Chuck Kobasew is a feisty winger with decent hands (he popped in 22 goals last year). Krejci will center this line if Bergeron takes the second line spot. The other spot will probably be filled by PJ Axelsson – but with the young Europeans in Boston (Soderberg in Sweden, and Nokelainen and Sobotka in Boston already), his days in the Spoked B may be numbered.
The defense is anchored by Zdeno Chara, who will probably break 50 points with the improved offense. Dennis Wideman is a workhorse who will see a lot of minutes, and youngster Matt Lashoff has lots of offensive upside as well. Beyond those three, the Bruins defense is made up of rock solid defensive guys like Aaron Ward and Andrew Alberts. Thomas will get the bulk of the starts in net, with Manny Fernandez seeing spot duty. He is coming off of an injury-plagued season and might be in tough to remain in the NHL if he cannot rebound.
Boston is being pegged as a non-playoff club by a few magazines and hockey personalities, but with their depth at forward and Chara commanding the blue line, I cannot see them missing the playoffs again. Look for Savard to rack up the assists playing with the talent that Boston possesses at wing. Krejci is the dark horse, but he may be pushed down the depth chart with Bergeron’s return to center.