Atlantic Division 2014-15 Preview: Boston Bruins
COACH: Claude Julien,
2013-14 RECORD: 54-19-9; 117 points (first in Atlantic; lost to Canadiens in second round)
VITAL SIGNS: 3.26 goals-for per game (3rd); 2.16 goals-against per game (2nd); 21.74 power play pct. (3rd); 83.65 penalty kill pct. (8th); shootout record: 3-6 (25th)
NOTABLE ARRIVALS: None
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART
Milan Lucic — David Krejci — Loui Eriksson
Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — Reilly Smith
Chris Kelly — Carl Soderberg — Matt Fraser
Daniel Paille — Gregory Campbell — Jordan Caron
Chris Kelly, Justin Florek
OUTLOOK: The Bruins return the same core that captured the Presidents’ Trophy last season minus only Jarome Iginla, who put up 61 points (30 goals, 31 assists) last season. That’s a lot of production to replace, but the B's have succeeded with a scoring-by-committee approach in the past. Their offense will revolve around veteran centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, but it could get a big boost from third liner Carl Soderberg. The 28-year-old Swedish ace took some time to get up to speed during his rookie NHL season, but finished strong with 14 points in 17 games last March. Reilly Smith had a breakout season (20 goals, 51 points) after being acquired in the Tyler Seguin trade. His delayed arrival at camp after a long contract dispute could make it tough for him to recreate those numbers. With Iginla gone, Smith and Loui Eriksson will compete for top line minutes and extra time on the power play. Boston's 2014 first rounder David Pastrnak could also be in the mix when he recovers from an injury suffered during training camp.
If the offense regresses—it ranked third in the NHL last season, averaging 3.15 goals per game—Boston's dominant defense can step up to keep this team in contention as long as it can answer some questions. The aging Zdeno Chara is a concern—he took just 168 shots last season, an indication of how effectively defenses were able to take away his time and space—and Dougie Hamilton has great potential as a three-zone force. He's on the verge of a breakout season and this would be a good time for him to deliver it. Likewise Torey Krug, an emerging force on a power play that ranked third last season (21.5 percent). There's also the matter of health. Dennis Seidenberg's absence was obvious in Boston's playoff loss to Montreal. And the loss of Johnny Boychuk in a cap space trade has created a hole that will be hard to fill. The Bruins must hope that goalie Tuukka Rask remains in Vezina form just in case the answers aren't quite what the Bruins want to see.
PLAYER TO WATCH: David Krejci
Krejci is under the gun after his vanishing act in the 2014 playoffs (no goals and four assists in 12 games). That spotlight was only made brighter by the six-year, $43.5 million extension he signed over the summer that will make him the highest-paid player on his team beginning next season. He'll never be the sort of elite center who lands among the top-20 scorers, but his two-way game makes him the ideal No. 1 for Claude Julien's demanding defensive system.