The Bruins did nothing to improve their defense but if they get improved goaltending they have enough talent to make the playoffs in a week Atlantic division.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season.
THN’s Prediction: 4th in Atlantic, wild-card team
Stanley Cup odds: 26-1
Key additions: David Backes, RW; Anton Khudobin, G; Dominic Moore, C; Riley Nash, RW
Key departures: Loui Eriksson, RW; Lee Stempniak, RW; Dennis Seidenberg, D; Brett Connolly, RW; Jonas Gustavsson, G; Chris Kelly, C; Landon Ferraro, C
-Can the defense hold up? The Magic Eight Ball says “don’t hold your breath.” Last year’s Bruins were a bottom-half possession team and tied for second-worst in shots allowed. Zdeno Chara will be 40 before the campaign ends, and GM Don Sweeney made no additions over the summer. It’s baffling to consider how much trouble this team would be in defensively without responsible forwards such as Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
-Is it still Tuukka time? Perhaps not coincidentally, goalie Tuukka Rask’s stats have declined as the Bruins’ defense has become more porous. Rask’s goals-against average has risen the past three seasons, and his save percentage has dropped the past two (and it was basically even the season prior to that). Though he’s only 29, Rask’s fall from grace and his mercurial nature in net are screaming for the Bruins to give top goalie prospect Malcolm Subban a serious kick at the can at some point.
-How much of an impact can David Backes make? He was the biggest off-season acquisition made by the Bruins, and he comes with risk. Based on the way Backes turned his game up a notch in the playoffs with St. Louis, the former Blues captain can at least be a powerful player for another season or two. Sure, he’s on the wrong side of 30 and has played a battle-scarring style for years, but Backes has juice left in the tank. Whether he’s still an effective player a couple seasons down the road when he’s mid-30s is another question. But for now, his five-year contract (with an AAV of $6 million) is a problem for the future, not the present.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
The Boston Bruins have been on the outside of the playoff picture for two straight seasons and were unlucky to be there on both occasions. Third time’s the charm right?
There’s no question the Bruins have gotten weaker over the last couple of seasons, but this is still a very good team and in a questionable Atlantic division they should be more than capable of reaching the post-season.
They’ve still got Tuukka Rask in net, who should be able to bounce back from one of the worst campaigns of his career. If he doesn’t, Anton Khudobin at backup is a much safer bet than Jonas Gustavsson was last year.
Goaltending should be a strength for this team, but it may look worse than it actually is thanks to the D-corps in front of it. Much has been made about the deficiencies here, and while it’s the weakest link, this model doesn’t think it’s that bad. Zdeno Chara has seen better days, but he’s still a very capable D-man, while Torey Krug is extremely underrated for what he brings to the table offensively (though Game Score likely overrates his ability there). It’s the rest of the group that’s questionable, although 7th D-man Colin Miller looks very promising.
Up front is the Bruins biggest strength as they possess an extremely capable top nine group that mitigates any negative effects of their dreadful bottom line. The catalyst for any Bruins success comes from one of the league’s best duos: Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. They’re the biggest reason the team is projected to finish this high as their combined value is among the largest in the league for a team’s top two forwards.
Almost every team represented on this list is a potential playoff team, with the strongest teams generally having stronger duos. That bodes extremely well for the Bruins whose pair is ranked pretty high. They clearly have the top flight talent to go up against any team in the league.
With Rask in net, decent depth at forward and a defense that might not be as bad as they seem, this team is simply too good to miss the playoffs for the third year in a row.
Up next: Detroit Red Wings
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