With the calendar flipping to the New Year, it felt fitting to look back at the Boston Bruins’ 2022 and find a few highlights. Now, to be clear, this set will be looking at players’ performance from Jan. 2022 to Dec. 2022, so a slow start last season does not automatically eliminate anyone from consideration. This will also only look at players, not specific moments, games, or staff decisions. Plenty of players have made significant contributions this year, but here are my three stars for the Bruins in reverse order.
Third Star: Jake DeBrusk
Jake DeBrusk had the biggest swing of the group. He epitomizes the “slow start” to the 2021-22 season mentioned above, struggling mightily under Bruce Cassidy, and even ending up as a healthy scratch last year. After his elevation to the first line, teaming up with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, he turned into the player many hoped he would be when he was drafted. He began utilizing the straight-ahead speed that his advocates pointed to as a weapon. He started deploying his shot more, and more importantly, connecting with the shots he took. Most importantly, he started showing commitment to defense, a trait that had most consistently found him in Cassidy’s doghouse.
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DeBrusk added four more points in the Bruins’ seven-game playoff round exit to the Carolina Hurricanes. That production, coupled with his continued commitment to a complete, 200-foot game was an important springboard into the first half of the 2022-23 season.
This season, DeBrusk has produced 27 points in 32 games, with an even split of goals and assists, and 16 of his 27 points have come at even strength. For the year, that brings his total to 60 points in 84 games. Quite the turnaround from watching games in the suites above the ice I’d say.
Second Star: Taylor Hall
It is not often the case that a player who has found themselves on the third line makes his way into the three-stars debate, but Taylor Hall is not your typical third-line winger. In 2022, he has 74 points in 88 games. He has 28 goals, 20 of those coming at even-strength play though, proving how much value he can bring without the benefit of a man advantage.
Hall also added four points in his seven playoff games. While not his highest total, he was still sixth on the team, behind the first line, Charlie McAvoy, and his now current centerman, Charlie Coyle. This past playoff was not the crowning accomplishment of Hall’s season, but it does support his impact in every facet of the year.
First Star: David Pastrnak
For just the third time in the last 30 years, a Bruins player has scored 100 points in a calendar year. That player is David Pastrnak.
After a slow (by his standards) start to the 2021-22 season, Pastrnak caught fire. In January and March, he scored double digit goals. From January to April, and the conclusion of the regular season, he tallied 56 points in 46 games. Another six points followed in the playoff series against the Hurricanes.
As evident by the stat mentioned above, Pasta’s hot streak has continued. This season he is up to 47 points in just 33 games, a mark that puts him on pace to eclipse 100 points in the season, to match his calendar yearly total. He has done his damage this year most often on the “second” line, alongside fellow Czech forwards, David Krejci and Pavel Zacha. This line is used in a 1A, 1B fashion alongside Marchand-Bergeron-DeBrusk, and has been instrumental to the Bruins’ dominance to date.
The only thing Pastrnak did not do this year is secure a new contract extension, and even that is not for a lack of trying. Unfortunately, the Bruins are seeing his price tag rise higher and higher as he keeps producing at an elite level and driving play for the top team in the league.
Now, with these three forwards selected, obviously some people were left out, so who almost made the cut? Given his utter dominance this season, Linus Ullmark almost forced his way into the third star conversation. If it weren’t for sub-par save percentage numbers early in 2022, he likely would have taken the cake. Even still, he may not win the award for the 2022 calendar year, but he could easily find some hardware at the end of the 2022-23 season.
Hampus Lindholm was another player, who has been stellar this season, especially given the heightened role he had to take on with the Bruins’ injuries at the start of the 2022-23 season. Since coming over from the Anaheim Ducks he has been a steady offensive contributor from the blue line while adding impactful contributions in the defensive end. Unfortunately, his arrival came at last season’s trade deadline, meaning he missed the first two months of the year for the Bruins. He has also dealt with his fair share of injuries this spring, between a knee issue and a concussion in the playoffs, dampening some of the sample size.
Finally, going off the board to a staff position, Jim Montgomery nearly forced his way on to the list. Although he has only been in Boston since October, his influence has led to the Bruins’ position atop the NHL standings, setting records for the longest home winning streak to start the season, and seeing players that had appeared to be liabilities turning into valuable contributors on both offense and defense. He has done all this while keeping the stingy defensive nature of the Cassidy-led teams while adding in offensive flair and creativity that was lacking through various stages of previous years. I know I said at the top that this list would only be players, but Montgomery’s impact feels too important to not acknowledge and at least consider.
Looking Ahead to 2023
These three players were all vital to the Bruins in 2022, and each will continue to play an important role in 2023. Hall’s acceptance of his move to the third line has added depth to a team that had shown some signs of being too top-heavy. Now with his scoring bringing the third line into contention every night, his performance has been vital to the Bruins’ success and will continue to dictate the path this team takes.
DeBrusk has found his form on the top line and continues to work seamlessly alongside Bergeron and Marchand, providing the Bruins with a balanced and dominant top trio. Pastrnak’s scoring, while never in doubt, has exploded this year, with his deployment on the Czech line creating a real question of which group, the Bergeron or Pastrnak line, is the real first line. While that debate is irrelevant in practice, it shows how dangerous the Bruins’ top six are and how difficult they will be at every stretch in their hopeful run to the Stanley Cup.