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THN’s 2015-16 NHL season preview: Boston Bruins

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David Pastrnak celebrates (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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THN’s 2015-16 NHL season preview: Boston Bruins

The Hockey News
By:

The Bruins need to improve their offense in 2015-16 if they want to get back to the post-season. Thankfully, young gun David Pastrnak could be just the player help them. Any team with Tuukka Rask is sure to steal a few victories, but Boston’s veteran defensemen Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg will need to be relied upon to guide the younger blueliners.

2014-15 Record: 41-27-14 (96 Pts.)
THN’s Prediction: 6th, Atlantic Division
What To Expect: After seven straight playoff appearances, including a Stanley Cup, ownership swiftly axed GM Peter Chiarelli when Boston missed the dance by two points. It wanted the roster remodelled, and new GM Don Sweeney did just that, moving six regulars, most notably
Milan Lucic and
Dougie Hamilton. The core of
Patrice Bergeron,
Zdeno Chara and
Tuukka Rask remains, but the 2015-16 Bruins will have a different feel. Last season, the B's dropped from third in offense to 22nd, and Sweeney moved four of
the seven players who reached 40 points. Wingers
Jimmy Hayes and
Matt Beleskey are the major additions up front. They'll be challenged to replace Lucic,
Carl Soderberg and
Reilly Smith. Beleskey and Hayes have each had one productive season, so banking on either is a gamble. A bounce-back year from
Brad Marchand and another step for
David Pastrnak, the youngest regular in the NHL last season, will help Bergeron and
David Krejci carry the offense. Pastrnak led the team with 26 second-half points.

Last season Boston allowed 30 more goals than in 2013-14, and the D-corps lost a key cog in Hamilton.
Matt Irwin was added as a UFA, and 22-year-old AHL standout
Colin Miller was acquired in the Lucic deal. They round out a thin back end, led by Chara, who is rapidly declining at 38. If the Bruins are to make the playoffs, it'll have to be on Rask's shoulders. But his goals-against average rose from 2.05 to 2.30 last season, and he'll be backed up by rookie
Jeremy Smith. The penalty kill was ranked 12th, and its top forward tandems return, led by Bergeron and Marchand. The power play should be revamped after falling to 17th and losing Lucic. Sweeney envisions his team shifting to an attacking style emphasizing speed. He also wants a younger lineup. It's uncertain how coach Claude Julien, who flapped in the wind for several weeks waiting to find out if he'd be retained, will embrace this philosophy. Ownership will likely show little patience if Julien can't shepherd the group to a quick start.
Screen shot 2015-10-02 at 5.18.30 PM
Best-Case Scenario: The Bruins still have several of the pieces that made them a Stanley Cup-winning squad and the hope is veterans such as Bergeron, Marchand and Krejci can contribute to the best of their ability. Backstopped by Rask, one of the best starters in the league, Boston has a hope at squeaking into the post-season and stealing a round.
Worst-Case Scenario: Already, the injury bug has bitten the Bruins. Defensemen Chara and Dennis Seidenberg have already gone down in the pre-season. It was hard to imagine such a drop off for the Bruins and they need to get back on track in a big way. They’re not a basement team, but finishing outside of the post-season could be the Bruins’ fate in 2015-16.
Who To Watch: The Bruins need a top offensive star and 19-year-old Pastrnak is already looking the part. He didn’t get a real shot at the Bruins roster until January and dazzled with 10 goals and 27 points in 46 games. To get a feel for how tremendous Pastrnak has been since coming over to North America, he lit up the AHL for 11 goals and 28 points in 25 games with the Providence Bruins. By comparison, AHL rookie scoring leader Connor Brown tallied 61 points in 76 games. Pastrnak, had he maintained his pace, would have bested that total by more than 20 points. He won’t be Calder eligible, but Pastrnak could easily be a top-three scorer on a Bruins team that desperately needs offense after finishing 23rd in goals for in 2014-15.
What The Numbers Say (by Dom Luszczyszyn):
Screen Shot 2015-10-02 at 4.02.26 PM
Click here for more detail on these predictions. Everyone seems to be down on the Bruins and that’s understandable after a tumultuous off-season. But the Bruins have been one of the league’s best teams during seven straight playoff runs and that opinion shouldn’t change after one off year, a year where they still had 96 points despite a 4-10 record in shootouts. The Bruins did lose a lot of talent and project to be about 3 points worse after all their questionable moves, but the base that they have to work with is still very good. A lot of players should bounce back after posting numbers way off their career norm and that means they should see an improvement in the standings despite being an overall weaker team. For most people, the biggest concern is on defense – especially after Hamilton’s departure – but it may be better than advertised. Torey Krug looks very good and Chara should still be great despite his age (which is what drops his projection down by about half a win here). The depth guys look like they can hold their own, and Seidenberg’s injury might even be a blessing in disguise give his recent performance. With Claude Julien’s defensive systems in place, the defense won’t be the disaster everyone thinks it will be. Where the Bruins are very strong is up front and in goal. Rask is still at least a top five goalie in this league and that’ll make things easier for Boston. At forward, the top nine looks very good and should be among the top groups in the East. The fourth line looks awful, but the rest of the forwards should perform well enough to compensate for it. This was the league’s best team just two years ago and the main pillars of that success still remain. With a core of Bergeron, Marchand, Chara, Krug and Rask, it’s hard to imagine the Bruins falling too far.
THN is rolling out its 2015-16 Team Previews daily, in reverse alphabetical order, until the start of the season. Check out our ‘Previews’ section to see other team breakdowns.

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THN’s 2015-16 NHL season preview: Boston Bruins