Unlike recent years, the Bruins enter this season with a boatload of question marks. It comes with the territory coming off of 2014-15 when they missed the postseason for the first time in eight years. For every sure thing they possess, such as Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron, they are juxtaposed with unknowns like newly acquired forwards Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes - not to mention a slew of inexperienced defensemen. For these reasons and many others, it’s especially hard to predict how Boston will fare in 2015-16. A long summer should have rejuvenated their bodies after many long playoff runs but they’ll need to get off to at least a decent start to ensure that head coach Claude Julien stays off the hot seat and behind their bench.
Rask (34-21-13, .922 save percentage, 2.30 goals against average, 3 shutouts) fell short of his Vezina Trophy-winning season of the year before but he was far from the biggest issue for the B’s in 2014-15. Boston had to play Rask in 70 games (the third highest total for a goaltender in the NHL) and h understandably wore down by the end of the season. It was a tough situation since they were chasing a playoff spot until the last game, so he basically never missed a start down the stretch. Jonas Gustavsson is Rask’s backup this season and he at least brings some NHL experience (60-55-21 career record with .901 save percentage, 2.89 goals against average and six shutouts) with Toronto and Detroit.
Defense will undoubtedly be a problem for the Bruins, at least until Zdeno Chara is back to full health, and who knows if Dennis Seidenberg will ever regain his previous form? Trading Dougie Hamilton to Calgary seemed dumb at the time and it looks even worse now when youngsters like Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman will be counted on to log significant minutes right off the bat. Torey Krug (12 goals, 27 assists, plus-13) is out to prove that he’s more than an offensive defenseman and former UMass-Amherst star Matt Irwin (8 goals, 11 assists) will have a bigger role than he ever did in San Jose. Colin Miller was the prize for Boston in the Milan Lucic trade and they’ll need him to be good right away.
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“Everybody’s just trying to focus on heading into the season, having a really good start and we all know how important that is,” noted Morrow.
Goal-scoring limitations have plagued the Bruins for years, but at least on paper they seem to have more potential there than they’ve possessed recently. A fully healthy David Krejci always makes a huge difference and David Pastrnak should be stronger in his first full NHL season. Boston might still lack a 30-goal scorer, but guys like Bergeron, Krejci, Beleskey, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson should all post 20-plus goals this year if they play up to their capabilities.