by Vinny Zammiello
After coming up short on making the playoffs for back to back seasons, the Boston Bruins are looking to turn things around in the upcoming 2016-2017 NHL season. Although the offense should have no trouble scoring, a lack of depth at defense could lead to more struggles and another early end to the season.
Unlike recent years, the Bruins offense is what carried their team as they were 5th in the league in scoring with 240 goals. It was a breakout year for right winger Brad Marchand, as he notched 61 points, including a team high 37 goals. Based of his impressive performance in the World Cup of Hockey, he should pick up right where he left off.
The Bruins offense is also carried by veteran centers David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, who both broke 60 points in their 2015-2016 campaigns. A key loss this offseason was left winger Loui Eriksson, who left via free agency. The Bruins will look to have a young player step in and Eriksson’s role. Two players who could potentially plug this hole in the lineup are either Frank Vatrano or David Pastrnak.
The big free agent signing this offseason was former St. Louis Blues captain David Backes, who will either play wing on one of the top two lines or center on the third line. Other off-season forward acquisitions include Dominic Moore and Riley Nash.
The Bruins defense last season wasn’t what it once was, as they were 19th in goals against with 230. It looks that the poor defensive play will continue with a lack of puck-moving defensemen on this year’s roster. The buyout of Dennis Seidenberg leaves another hole on the Bruins blue line that has yet to be filled.
With Chara at the age of 39, Torey Krug will look to be the Bruins go-to defenseman in all situations. Supporting Krug will be Kevan Miller, Adam McQuade, John-Michael Liles, Colin Miller, and Joe Morrow. Although there is promise for the future with a deep pool of defenseman prospects, the Bruins will currently have to rely on the forwards helping in the defensive zone to be successful on the back-end.
The Bruins looked for more stability in goal by dropping backup goalie Jonas Gustavsson for former Bruins’ backup Anton Khudobin. Khudobin helped the Bruins capture a President’s Trophy in 2014, with the best regular season record in the National Hockey League. As usual, the Bruins will look to stand-out puck stopper Tuukka Rask to start the majority of games. Rask had an off year last season (by his standards) with a 2.56 goals against average. With only 31 wins on the season, he will look to improve on that stat for sure. The Bruins will also need Khudobin to pick up a few wins, as well as mixing in young prospect Malcolm Subban into a few games to have a successful goaltending season.