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Boston Bruins Season 21/22


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2021-22 SEASON PREVIEW: BOSTON
Corey Abbott
BY COREY ABBOTT
August 27, 2021, 11:14 am ET
Updated On: August 29, 2021, 11:09 am ET
 

 

 

 

BOSTON BRUINS

 

2020-21 Record: 33-16-7, 73 points

Result: Third in the East Division. Lost 4-2 to the New York Islanders in the second round.

 

Significant Gains: Linus Ullmark, Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, Tomas Nosek, Derek Forbort

 

Significant Losses: David Krejci, Nick Ritchie, Jeremy Lauzon

 

Strengths: Boston’s top line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron remains the strongest part of the roster.

 

They account for most of the team’s offensive production, while matching up against the top players on the opposition. The Bruins also excel as a group defensively. Charlie McAvoy had an outstanding year from the back end at both ends of the ice. Boston tied for the fourth-best goals against per game (2.39) and had the second-best penalty kill (86.0%) during the 2020-21 campaign.

 

Weaknesses: The Bruins have a big hole to fill on the second line following the departure of Krejci, who has decided to continue his playing career in the Czech Republic. He has been the steadiest source of production beyond the first line for the team for a while now. 

 

Taylor Hall and Craig Smith brought some much-needed secondary scoring last season, while offseason additions Foligno and Haula could occupy middle-six forward spots. Charlie Coyle is considered the early favorite to center the second combination. Still, depth up front and on the back end remain question marks for Boston entering the year.

 

Player to Watch: Coyle has sleeper potential if he cements his spot on the second line, but all eyes will be on Ullmark between the pipes going into the 2021-22 campaign. He was signed to a four-year contract by Boston because of the uncertainty surrounding Tuukka Rask, who is currently an unrestricted free agent and had offseason hip surgery. Ullmark has been a bright spot for the lowly Buffalo Sabres over the past two seasons and stands a good chance to make a big impact for the Bruins, while teaming up with Jeremy Swayman.

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DWWean/NHLI via Getty Images

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Take a quick look at the Bruins current roster and one thing that might jump out at you: the Bruins have a lot of freakin’ centers.

Besides the guys returning from last year who can play in the middle of the ice (Patrice Bergeron, Charlie Coyle, Curtis Lazar, Trent Frederic, and Jack Studnicka), the Bruins added centers Tomáš Nosek, Erik Haula, and occasional center Nick Foligno this summer via free agency.

With so many options at center, the question then becomes which players will get a shot to play center and which line will they play on.

Line 1

The center for the first line is an absolute no-brainer, and requires very little to be written on it.

Bergeron will be centering Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak when the season begins. End of story.

Line 2

While there are a few options here to fill David Krejci’s old spot, it looks like Boston’s 2C to start the year will most likely be Coyle.

Head coach Bruce Cassidy already alluded to bumping Coyle up from the third line in August when asked about who would be his second line center.

“The obvious choice is Charlie Coyle,” he said at the time. “He’s the most familiar with our guys and I’m the most familiar with him.”

And while there is no guarantee this will happen as the Bruins have yet to start training camp and chemistry could form between Taylor Hall, Craig Smith, and another center, Coyle appears to be the guy at the moment.

 

If this is true, the Bruins will need a big bounce-back season from Coyle. Last year, he was not the player that he was in the 2018-19 playoffs or during the 2019-2020 season.

After the season ended, we did learn that Coyle had been playing a bad knee all year, an injury that required two surgeries this summer.

To date, Coyle has never had such a prominent role as he appears slated to have this season. The pressure is certainly on for Coyle to produce.

Coyle is a solid playoff performer when the games matter most, so hopefully this is an indication that he can perform under the scrutiny he’ll face in 2021-22.

Line 3

This is where the uncertainty begins for the Bruins.

 

The Bruins have at least four legitimate players who could slot in as the third-line center; however, many are predicting that Haula might get the first shot here with Nick Foligno on his wing.

 

In the past, 30-year-old Haula has shown some offensive punch (scoring 29 goals and 25 assists in 2017-18), and if he could find that scoring touch on the third line this year it would go a long way in making the B’s a complete hockey team.

 

After an knee injury in 2018-2019, however, Haula has not produced at a similar rate as that career year. Haula is still a great skater though, is sound defensively, and very strong in the faceoff circle (55.1% last season), making him the most likely candidate to center line three.

Perhaps we shouldn’t sleep on Jack Studnicka as a third-line center quite yet . Though a longshot, if Studnicka has a really strong training camp and preseason, he may be able steal this spot.

 

The B’s have also got to be eager to give their top pick from 2017 a shot at his natural position before too long so they can see what they really have in the kid.

Fourth line

The Bruins’ fourth line center spot probably comes down to Nosek or Lazar, and the deciding factors may be that:

 

  • Lazar has plenty of experience playing right wing in the NHL, while Nosek doesn’t have as much experience on the wing.
  • Nosek is a much better face-off man (career numbers: Nosek 52.6% vs Lazar 46.4%).
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Nosek is also coming off of a career year in Vegas (8 goals and 10 assists in 38 games), so the Bruins may want to continue to see if Nosek grows at center.

 

The very long shot for fourth-line center is Frederic.

 

Frederic was drafted by the Bruins as a center, but in his limited time in the NHL so far, he’s played mostly on the wing.

You can expect the same to happen this season, unless injuries bite the Bruins down the middle.

 

Despite having a plethora of center options, there are many Bruins fans wondering if Boston still needs to find a bona-fide 2C.

Coyle’s performance last year has many people doubting if he or any of the other centers (not named Bergeron) are good enough to lead the 2nd line.

 

The departure of Krejci has left very big shoes to fill, and the Bruins may have to look outside the organization to fill them.

 

Complicating matters is the fact that if a deal is done to bring in another center, the Bruins would have even more centers on the roster; one would likely have to be moved in the deal to make space in lineup and under the salary cap.

 

Ultimately, if another center is not brought in to Boston, this could very well come down a what Sweeney referred to as a “center by committee” situation.

 

In all likelihood, the guy who plays center on lines two through four could change quite frequently; however, you have to think this plan is less than ideal for a team that wants to compete for another Stanley Cup.

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Edited by Brewin Flames
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The Bruins will open training camp secure in the knowledge they’ll have a lot of good NHL players.

 

Though we’re still waiting to see who will hold down the No. 2 center spot, the top nine forwards look strong. They should have at least six good defensemen, with some flexibility in pairings. They have the makings of a quality goalie tandem.

 

The six exhibition games may tell us more about the players on the fringe, and those whose NHL careers are a few years away. Those players are in focus here.

 

These players have fewer than 60 NHL games on their résumés and are considered prospects based on reviews of game film, live viewings, past performance, interviews with hockey personnel and other sources, statistics, and analytics:

 

Forwards

 

Jack Studnicka, C/RW: Listed at 6 feet 1 inch and 171 pounds, he says he put on 15 pounds this offseason. Looks the part. Once camp drills start, Bruins would love to see signs that the 2017 second-round pick (53rd overall), who has 22 NHL games under his belt in two pro seasons, is capable of holding down a top-six center spot (recall, if you dare, that Patrice Bergeron is 36). Entry-level deal expires next summer. This season, is he better served as a spare part in Boston or an all-situations guy in Providence?

 

Trent Frederic, C/LW: Club wants to keep him at center, but he’s got a tough battle with fellow left-shot centers Erik Haula and Tomas Nosek sure to make the roster. Bruins protected him from the Seattle expansion draft (most other players on this list were exempt) and handed him a two-year, $2.1 million contract extension. St. Louisian could push right-shooting Curtis Lazar to fourth-line wing, or Chris Wagner out of the lineup.

 

Jakub Lauko, LW: Third-round pick (77th overall) from 2018 is feisty and fast with some offensive upside. Will be a key player in Providence if he doesn’t win a fourth-line job. Should be an NHL regular in two to three years.

Oskar Steen, C/RW: Small, stocky, and competitive. May not have enough offensive oomph to play center at 5-9 but could earn spot starts as a winger. Is exempt from waivers.

 

Jesper Froden, RW: Swedish veteran (age 27) can deliver pace on the right side. Showed intelligent two-way game and nose for the net in the Buffalo rookie tournament (four goals in two games). Looks like a better version of Karson Kuhlman, more touch with the puck and around the net. Waivers-exempt.

 

Anton Blidh, LW: A bit slower and heavier than Lauko, with less panache but more thump. Unlike Lauko, would have to pass through waivers.

 

Karson Kuhlman, RW: Plug-and-play fourth-liner. Quality substitute who can play 10 minutes a night, and sit for long stretches, sans issues.

Zach Senyshyn, RW: Bruins re-signed him for one year at the league minimum. Has not broken through. May get a better shot in another system.

 

Cameron Hughes, LW/RW: Slightly built (5-11, 160) and soon to be 25, looks like an AHLer.

 

Fabian Lysell, RW: Several years away but will get a taste of the preseason. Electric skater and playmaker. Should be a point producer for WHL Vancouver this season.

 

Defensemen

 

Jakub Zboril, LD: Performed well enough in 42 games last season (0-9—9) to earn a few All-Rookie votes but more veteran help on the left side (Derek Forbort, a healthy John Moore) means a job is not yet his. Was not taken in Seattle expansion draft.

 

Urho Vaakanainen, LD: Development of first-round pick (18th overall, 2017) appears to have stalled since 2018 arrival in North America. Not much “wow” to his game. Unless he defends harder and creates more offensively, may be a top-four fixture in Providence.

 

Jack Ahcan, LD: He’s even smaller than his listed 5-8, 184 pounds. That makes him a tricky evaluation for the Bruins. Does he look so dynamic because he’s so small, or is he just dynamic? Either the next Torey Krug or a future AHL All-Star.

 

Brady Lyle, RD: Struggled in Buffalo rookie tournament but will likely calm down. His size (6-3, 215) and shot could help the Bruins, who are light on right-side depth.

 

Nick Wolff, LD: Has to improve puck play to be an NHLer. Big (6-5, 230) penalty-killer type.

 

Goalie

 

Kyle Keyser: Big year for 22-year-old, who earned a Bruins contract out of the Buffalo rookie tournament in 2017. Can he beat out AHL veteran Troy Grosenick for the majority of starts in Providence? Yet to play a full AHL season. Has a steep climb to full-time work in Boston with Jeremy Swayman’s emergence and Linus Ullmark’s four-year deal. Entry-level contract expires next summer.

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Edited by Brewin Flames
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Bruins pre-season game #1

 

Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula each scored and had a goal in the shootout to help the Boston Bruins defeat the Washington Capitals 3-2 in the preseason opener for each team at Capital One Arena in Washington on Sunday.

 

Garrett Pilon tied the game 2-2 at 5:26 of the third period for the Capitals.

 

Joe Snively gave Washington a 1-0 lead 4:15 into the first period before DeBrusk tied it 1-1 at 12:56.

 

Haula made it 2-1 at 1:09 of the second period.

Jeremy Swayman made 18 saves on 19 shots playing 30:11 for the Bruins. Troy Grosenick made 11 saves on 12 shots in relief.

 

Pheonix Copley made 12 saves on 14 shots through the second period for the Capitals. Vitek Vanecek made the save on all nine shots he faced in the third period.

Daniel Sprong scored Washington's only goal in the shootout, and Hendrix Lapierre, the No. 22 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, had two assists for the Capitals.

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