Today’s the day we’ve all been waiting for; opening night of the 2015-2016 NHL season. As summer disappeared a new quest for the Cup begins. Every team has a chance, every trade, signing, retirement, firing and hiring have shaped the teams set to take the ice this week. We couldn’t be more excited. And even though most prediction pieces never come true, the Boston Bruins kick off their season Thursday night so we want to get our individual predictions to you before it’s too late. Here they are:
(D. Wayne) David Krejci – He’ll lead the team in points if he stays healthy. His line didn’t have an amazing preseason but once he gets going, and aids a power play that sorely missed him last year, he’ll lead the charge offensively. Brad Marchand will lead the team in goals (29) with a much better play making Loui Eriksson on his line than the now departed Reilly Smith.
(D. Daycare) Patrice Bergeron – It is going to take someone getting in the 70’s with points to be the scoring leader on the Bruins and I think it will be Bergeron. Marchand had his elbow repaired during the off season so he is going to be able to shoot the puck without pain. This all leads to Marchand scoring more goals and Bergeron getting more assists. Also Bergeron will have Loui Eriksson on the right side, who is primed to put in another 20 goals. If that line stays together they could be scary good.
Best Young Star:
(D.Wayne) Ryan Spooner – We all know David Pastrnak will be a potent 20-goal player riding shotgun with Krejci but Spooner should bring the entire package to the Bruins. He’s learning the center position under Patrice Bergeron’s eye and I think over the course of a long season, as players go through scoring slumps, he’ll still provide more in all three zones than Pastrnak.
(D. Daycare) David Pastrnak – I have to go with Pastrnak. He is going to be playing with David Krejci, who is one of the better play makers in the NHL. Pastrnak is also going to get power play time where skilled players like him can rack up the points. Also, with the new 3v3 overtime format he is due to have a few game winners in those situations.
(D. Wayne) Torey Krug – Scary thought, I know. But his offensive prowess is so important to the Bruins and the new wrinkles to their system. I also think now that he’s been around awhile, with a contract on the line, that he’ll step it up in his own end as well. This is a huge year for Krug.
(D. Daycare) Zdeno Chara – I still need to go with Chara as the best defenseman. If he is not then the Bruins are going to be in big trouble. He will need to stay healthy. He does not need to be the beast he once was, but he needs to be productive. If he stays healthy he will be the Bruins best defenseman.
Most Likely To Be Traded:
(D. Wayne) Alex Khoklachev – He’s not on the NHL roster because he didn’t impress enough again in camp this year. Calling out the Bruins brass about not really getting a fair shot was dumb too. So now he’s back in Providence. Any deal the Bruins make to help improve their defense will most likely involve Koko and his untapped potential along with a young defenseman. If the Bruins struggle this year then Dennis Seidenberg would be the piece to sell off and clear cap space going into summer.
(D. Daycare) Matt Irwin – It is hard to go against D. Wayne on this one because if Koko is in this organization by the end of the year I will be shocked, or things went terribly wrong and he ended up on the Bruins. With that being said, I just do not see Matt Irwin in Boston long term. I think he was out played by some of the younger guys like Colin Miller and Joe Morrow. Morrow would need to clear waivers to be sent to Providence, so he is going to be in Boston all season. Morrow and Irwin are both left shot defensemen, but I think Morrow has played better. It is a numbers game. At some point when Chara and Seidenberg are healthy the Bruins have too many defensemen that cannot be sent to Providence. Because of that I think Irwin will be out.
(D. Wayne) Zac Rinaldo – Yes, the Bruins overpaid for Zac Rinaldo. But he’ll bring the energy and fight the Bruins lacked so badly last year and he’ll actually keep his head on his shoulders this season. Coming from Philadelphia to Boston is a change he needed. No, he won’t score a lot, he won’t even play every night, but I think he’ll be a good solider and bring exactly what Don Sweeney wanted from him and it will help the team more than we all realized.
(D. Daycare) Jonas Gustavsson – Gustavsson came into camp on a PTO and earned himself a contract. He is going to give the Bruins a reliable backup. I think he will start around 20 games this year, maybe a little under, but he will give Tuukka the support and rest he is going to need for this upcoming season.
(D. Wayne) Matt Beleskey – He very well could end up a 20-goal scorer again but with only one previous 20-goal season in his career and a quiet preseason, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him slip to the 14-15 goal range as he adjusts in Boston. He’ll have every opportunity to score with Krejci on his line but fans will get impatient with “Lucic’s replacement” if he’s not scoring. Even though he plays a tough Bruins style that’s not primarily what his big free agent deal was for. He’s got to score and he might not as much as we hoped.
(D. Daycare) Zdeno Chara – I know I had him listed as my best defenseman, but I do think he can be the Bruins best defenseman and still be a disappointment. Every fan has a vision of Chara in their mind and as he ages he is not going to meet the fan’s expectations. His mobility was never great, but he made up for it with his reach and hockey IQ. His mobility will continue to get worse and I think he is a liability on the power play due to the decrease in his mobility. If he is on the point on the power play it makes that unit predictable. They are setting Chara up for the clapper instead of moving the puck quickly and creating holes in the penalty killing unit. I just do not think he will be able to play up to the expectations of the fans.
Best New Acquisition:
(D. Wayne) Colin Miller – He’s already had an eye opening preseason and it should only get better. Miller will take his lumps along the way as he still has to navigate the defensive zone in the NHL a little better but he’s really going to add a lot to a Bruins defense group that needs his skills. There is a big upside here. Being known as “the other guy” in the Lucic trade will turn into Miller being a steal.
(D. Daycare) Jimmy Hayes – I know the results were not there in the preseason for Hayes, but I have liked the energy that he brought when he was on the ice. He is a massive screen in front of the net and he is going to create a lot of space for Spooner and Connolly. He has more skill than I thought and he works really hard every shift.
(D. Wayne) Tuukka Rask – Has to be Tuukka. He’ll determine if they make the playoffs. Much like Carey Price carried a massive load for Montreal last year to get them where they were, Tuukka will have a similar job. Although, he won’t have to carry them as much as Price did the Habs. But if Rask is playing up to his Vezina Trophy ability it will be the difference maker the Bruins need. He can steal them some games for a post season push, and if they get in it’s because he’s the MVP.
(D. Daycare) Tuukka Rask – If the Bruins are going to make the playoffs Tuukka has to be the MVP. He is going to need to be sharp early on while the defense goes through some growing pains.
Playoffs, Yes or No?:
(D. Wayne) Yes. Only because I can’t say no. I just can’t. My heart says yes, head says “ehhh, it’s a stretch”. The Eastern Conference is getting much deeper and much more balanced. But here’s how I think (dream) it works out: In the Metro Division: Washington, Columbus, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh get in. Goaltending and overall defensive play will fail the Islanders. In the Atlantic Division: Tampa Bay, Montreal, Florida, and Boston get in. I think Detroit’s injuries and age, and Ottawa’s goaltending, set them both back this year.
(D. Daycare) Yes. I am with D. Wayne on this one. I think they will get in as either a 7, or 8 seed. You never know though. The Bruins and Columbus suffered a bunch of injuries last year, so this year it could be someone else. If any team that people think will be ahead of the Bruins lose their star player for 20 games, or their number one center for half the season the Bruins could pass them in end up in the top 3 in their division. As we saw last year the margin of error to make the playoffs is small. Anything can happen.