If it feels as though it has been a while since the Bruins played a real game, you are correct. After getting unceremoniously bounced by the hated Canadiens in a Game 7 at TD Garden on May 14 in the second round of the playoffs, Boston experienced a much-longer-than-anticipated off-season. The good news for the B’s and their fans is that the lengthy break is coming to an end and Boston enters the earliest stages of the 2014-15 season as one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference and the NHL as a whole.
Here are three things to know as camp opens later this week:
1. The art of the re-up
Earlier this month, center David Krejci signed a six-year extension worth $43.5 million. Coming off one of the best seasons of his underrated career (19 goals, 50 assists – most points on the Bruins; an NHL-best plus-39), locking up the 28-year-old Krejci made sense on many levels. He’s the Bruins’ top-line center and a guy that typically picks his game up a notch in the postseason. For whatever reason, he wasn’t himself in the playoffs last season (zero goals, four assists, minus-3), but the same could be said for most of his teammates against the Canadiens, who more than any other team in the NHL continually take it to the B’s.
There aren’t too many juicy storylines heading into training camp, which is certainly how GM Peter Chiarelli and Co. want it, but one thing to pay attention to is the contract status’ of defenseman Torey Krug (14 goals, 26 assists) and right wing Reilly Smith (20 goals, 31 assists). They are two of the Bruins’ top young players (both are 23) and they are currently restricted free agents.
2. Holes to fill
The two most notable losses that the Bruins suffered over the summer were right wing Jarome Iginla (30 goals, 31 assists) going to Colorado and enforcer Shawn Thornton (74 penalty minutes) heading to Florida. Boston wanted to keep Iginla but with his strong season last year, they couldn’t afford him and Thornton is 37 – so they were prepared to move on. The name bandied about to replace Iginla’s dependable production on the first line with Krejci and Milan Lucic has been Loui Eriksson (10 goals, 27 assists). He isn’t Iginla, by any means, but there weren’t many other legitimate options. As for Thornton’s spot, it’ll be a preseason battle royal between Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Justin Lindblad and Ryan Spooner, among others.
3. The invite list
Left wing Simon Gagne (288 career goals, 309 career assists) and forward Ville Leino (205 career points) are the most noteworthy veterans who are each invited to Bruins training camp for perhaps their last shot at hanging around in the NHL. It would be a surprise if either make the team. There’s more intrigue regarding Boston’s first round pick (25th overall) from 2014, right wing David Pastrnak. The energetic Czech will try to become the first 18-year-old since Patrice Bergeron to make the B’s opening night roster.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate