NHL Team Preview: Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins are once again Stanley Cup contenders, and with the tweaks they made to the roster, they will be a tough out in 2021-22. Most sportsbooks have Boston around +1300 to win the Stanley Cup and +300 to win the Atlantic Division.
One of the biggest changes in Boston this season is that Tuukka Rask will no longer be between the pipes. Rask is recovering from offseason surgery, and as a free agent, he was not re-signed while he is rehabbing.
Though Boston has not shut the door on Rask’s return, nothing seems imminent.
Instead, Linus Ullmark will be the new starter in net (or at least in a timeshare with Jeremy Swayman). Ullmark has spent his career to this point with the Buffalo Sabres. Last season, he went 9-6-3 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.63 GAA.
To contextualize just how much better the Sabres were when Ullmark was in net, the team won 15 games last season. Ullmark was the winning goaltender in 60% of their wins. Furthermore, Ullmark was the only goaltender on the roster with a save percentage above a .905 and a GAA below 3.45.
If he can play at that level for Boston this season, Ullmark could be a Vezina Trophy winner.
Nick Foligno signed with Boston as well after serving as captain for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus traded Foligno to Toronto at last season’s trade deadline but did not sign an extension.
Foligno plays a tough, physical style that makes him a natural fit in Boston. He’s put up no more than 35 points in each of the past four seasons, but it’s not a stretch to think he could meet or exceed that total with the Bruins this year.
Erik Haula is likely a bottom-six forward in Boston, but he’s still an excellent player who adds a ton of depth with his versatility. Haula has bounced around the NHL a bit but is still reliable in all zones and plays with good pace to his game.
Brad Marchand finished third in the league in scoring with 69 points, and he has almost completely retooled his game. Marchand has skill in spades, but early in his career, his antics could, at times, hamstring the team. Gone are the days of slew-foots, spearing, and licking his opponents. Instead, he still finds ways to get under opponents’ skins while playing within the rules.
Marchand’s linemates are equally crucial to Boston’s success. Center Patrice Bergeron has been one of the most elite two-way players in history; he’s incredibly skilled in the defensive zone and has won the Norris Trophy four times.
David Pastrnak is often the beneficiary of Marchand’s and Bergeron’s play as the “finisher” on the line. Pastrnak finished third on the Bruins in goals last season with 20 (Bergeron had 23, Marchand 29), though Pastrnak played in fewer games than the other two. In 2019-20, Pastrnak had 48 goals while Bergeron and Marchand had 31 and 28, respectively.
Just before the Bruins took the ice, Boston signed Charlie McAvoy to an eight-year, $76 million extension. McAvoy is quite possibly the best 5-on-5 defenseman in the league. However, he doesn’t have the same level of power play production as other defensemen, which keeps him from being considered a Top 5 defenseman by some analysts. The Bruins fall apart when McAvoy is not on the ice.
Finally, Taylor Hall will play a key piece in the Bruins’ puzzle this season. The former Hart Trophy winner seemed like a natural fit after Boston acquired him at last season’s trade deadline. Hall was a breath of fresh air on the second line and brought life to the offense, scoring 14 points in 16 games after the trade.
Things may be different without David Krejčí as his center, playing instead with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith, Hall will still be expected to be one of the top scorers on the team and will likely play on the first power play unit.
Boston Bruins Season Predictions and Odds
2021-22 Over/Under Point Total: Atlantic Division Title Odds: +300 (second-best) Eastern Conference Champions Odds: +600 (third-best) Stanley Cup Odds: +1300 (fifth-best)
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.