The Boston Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy in the 2013-14 season but in the end, it didn’t mean much. Here is what our hockey handicapper predicts is in store for them during this upcoming season.
Other than finishing with the most points in the regular season, the Bruins won’t be too thrilled about their campaign. They exited early in the playoffs, losing in the second round, and fell short of their ultimate goal. They should return most of the team intact, but may have to make some tough decisions regarding free agents. They don’t have a ton of cap space.
Tight Against The Salary Cap
The Bruins enter the offseason with the second-highest payroll in the NHL, which means they don’t have much room to maneuver. The good news is that they are already a Stanley Cup contender, so they don’t have a lot of work to do.
The biggest pressing concerns will be free agent Jarome Iginla and restricted free agents Reilly Smith and Torrey Krug. Iginla will be 37-years-old by the start of next season, but he still provided the Bruins with 30 goals and 61 points. The team is likely hoping he returns on a team-friendly contract, otherwise they’ll have to replace a chunk of their offense. He’s trying to win a ring, and could go to a different contender that has more cap space if he wants. Meanwhile, Smith and Krug are a pair of youngsters who had breakout seasons and are restricted. Krug led all Bruins scorers with 10 points in the postseason, and was steady all year, while Smith was a surprise contributor with 51 points. The Bruins were a Stanley Cup contender last season not only because their defense but also their goaltending was top-notch. That’s always been the case in recent years. The fact that the offense finished second in the NHL with 261 is what really made this team elite. The Bruins need to bring back Iginla, Smith and Krug to keep it that way.
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Fatigue was a big factor for the Bruins in the second half of the 2013-14 season – particularly for goaltender Tuukka Rask. He had never started that many games in an NHL season, and don’t forget that he also took on extra action as Finland’s goaltender at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. In total, five key Bruins members went to Sochi. If you dive into Rask’s numbers, you can see that he just wasn’t himself by the second round of the playoffs. Versus the Habs, he posted a mediocre .903 save percentage, and allowed 19 goals in seven games (2.71 per contest). He’s better than that. Rask had never played in more than 45 games in a regular season before, but played 58 in the regular season, plus the games in Sochi. Next season, he won’t have to play so many games, and if he does, he’ll be better prepared for it, thanks to the experience.
Team In Their Prime?
Not much really changes for the Bruins. Even if they lose Iginla, Krug and Smith, they’ll be among the best teams in the Eastern Conference. That’s what they have been over the last few years, and that should continue. The blue line returns a cast that includes Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton. Up front, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson are all back. Their checking line players like Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Carl Soderberg are also signed.
Clearly, the cupboard is still quite loaded here. Aside from Chara and Iginla, who have shown no signs of slowing down, this team is still young, and in their prime. With Rask getting better by the year, expect this team to again be one of the contenders to win the Eastern Conference.