What a way to kick off the New Year, huh? The Boston Bruins walked into Notre Dame Stadium (in style, might I add) and took two points from the Chicago Blackhawks in the annual NHL Winter Classic. After an up and down 2018 filled with moments both good and bad, 2019 couldn’t have kicked off in better fashion for the B’s. We’re just getting started though.
The Bruins will return home for a date with the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, one of the top teams in the Western Conference. The Flames beat the B’s back in October, but neither team had really hit their stride at that point. Now? The Flames are first in the Pacific Division and on a tear. The Bruins, meanwhile, are starting to get healthy and win hockey games. In 2019, which started with the Winter Classic, it will only get better.
Now is the time to make our predictions, so today I’ll be looking ahead with five predictions for the B’s in 2019. Let’s get started, shall we?
An Active Sweeney?
1) Don Sweeney Acquires a Top-Six Forward: The Bruins, when healthy, can compete for a Stanley Cup with a couple of additions here and there. As teams begin to wave the white flag on their season, the players available for clubs buying around the deadline will become apparent. The Bruins will be a buyer next month, and I suspect Sweeney will make it count for the second season in a row.
I have my doubts that he’ll move his first-round pick in June’s draft, he did so last year in the Rick Nash deal, but I’m suew that he’d be willing to move a prospect or two to fill this need. Tyler Toffoli of the L.A. Kings makes a lot of sense here, as does Jordan Eberle of the New York Islanders. Both players are proven top-six options that can put the puck in the net and would fit with the B’s.
2) Bruins Sign Rick Nash: This one falls under the ‘bold’ category when it comes to predictions, that’s for sure. Rick Nash was acquired by the Bruins at the deadline last year and fit in perfectly before suffering another concussion. Although Nash hasn’t played this season because of concussion concerns, the talk over the summer was that Nash would reevaluate his options during the season. He can still help a team and fits the B’s needs like a glove. Nash and the Bruins will hook up on a contract that spans the rest of the season in mid-February, and he’ll solidify the Bruins’ forward corps along with Sweeney’s deadline acquisition.
Bruin Playoff Hockey!
3) Bruins Return to Playoffs: Currently sitting in a playoff spot and having already dealt with adversity this season, this one feels obvious. For the third season in a row, the Bruins will play meaningful hockey in April, heading into the playoffs as the number three seed in the Atlantic Division. Tampa will take the divisional crown, while Toronto will win home ice in the first round as the number two seed.
Considering all of their injuries this season, I think finishing third in arguably the best division in hockey has to be considered a victory for the Bruins. That is especially so when you consider that the Lightning are one of the best teams this decade and the Maple Leafs are a stacked young team in their own right.
4) B’s Top Leafs: Oh yes, it is happening again my friends. For the third time this decade and the second time in as many years, the Bruins will defeat the Maple Leafs in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Leafs simply don’t have the defense needed to win in the playoffs at this point. No matter how good the forward group is, you have to have a solid top-four defensive group.
Right now, I think the Leafs’ defense will hold them back when it’s crunch time. Goaltender Frederik Andersen, although playing at an elite level this season, still has yet to prove himself in the playoffs and won’t be getting the benefit of the doubt from me until he does.
Lastly, this series will follow a similar path to the previous two playoff meetings between these teams. It’s going to go seven games, although this time the Bruins take Game 7 at the Air Canada Center.
5) Thunderstruck: After knocking off the Leafs in the opening round, the Bruins will have their second straight spring date with the Lightning. The Bruins, in my mind, are actually better built to beat the Bolts this year than last. Why is that? Well, the Bruins are deeper and better on defense, and I think the defense is capable of pushing the Lightning. Problem is, even with the additions I’ve predicted above, the Bruins simply don’t match up with the Lightning offensively.
The depth of the Lightning roster is simply too much for the Bruins to handle, and that is what will do them in this May. The Bruins will push the series to six games, in large part thanks to Tuukka Rask standing on his head, to the disappointment of a certain faction of Bruins fans, but they will be outmatched.