At the beginning of the season, I made four bold Boston Bruins predictions. At the midway point of the season, we checked in to see how things were going. With the Bruins season over and the NHL handing out the last of their annual regular-season awards Tuesday night, let’s take one last look to see how my predictions turned out.
No. 1 – McAvoy Finishes in Top 5 for Norris Trophy
When Torey Krug left in free agency for the St. Louis Blues last October and Zdeno Chara left in December to join the Washington Capitals, the reigns of the defense were left in the hands of Charlie McAvoy. The 23-year-old was up to the challenge and he solidified the Black and Gold’s defense this season.
Last season, McAvoy finished 10th in the voting for the Norris Trophy and this season, despite the season being only 56 games, he took a big step in improving his game and finished fifth in the voting. In 51 games, he had five goals and 25 assists with a plus/minus of plus-22.
Adam Fox of the New York Rangers won the award with 743 points and Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche was second with 655. Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning was third with 433 points and Dougie Hamilton of the Carolina Hurricanes was fourth with 239. McAvoy, who had two first-place votes, was next with 125 points.
Even though it was a shortened season, McAvoy took his game to another level in 2020-21 for the Bruins and was a top-five defenseman in the league. Boston hopes he can take his game further next season.
No. 2 – Bruins Trade For Defensemen Noah Hanifin
This one did not come to fruition as the Calgary Flames held onto their 24-year-old left-shot defensemen. Despite the Flames keeping Hanifin and the remaining three years he has left on his six-year contract that carries a $4.95 million cap hit, don’t be surprised to see Bruins general manager Don Sweeney turn back around to see the availability of the former Boston College standout in the future.
Sweeney addressed the Bruins’ need for a left-shot defenseman at the trade deadline in April when he acquired Mike Reilly from the Ottawa Senators for a draft pick. In 15 regular-season games in Boston, Reilly had eight assists, giving him 27 for the season in 55 games after collecting 19 with the Senators prior to the trade. He also finished with a plus/minus of plus-7 in Boston, while averaging 21:04 of ice-time a night.
No. 3 – Bruins Power Play Ranks in the Top 3
This prediction looked promising at the beginning of the season as they were ranked in the top three through the first 13 games, but things went downhill and it went downhill quickly. After starting the season on fire, the power play fizzled over the second half of the season and finished 10th in the league at 21.9-percent (%).
Captain Patrice Bergeron led the Bruins with seven power play goals, David Pastrnak was second with six and Nick Ritchie had five. Matt Grzelcyk took over Krug’s role as the defenseman on the first unit, but he missed 19 games with various injuries. Early in the season in Grzelcyk’s absence, coach Bruce Cassidy often went with a five-forward power play. Finishing 10th is nothing to be ashamed of, but this season, there’s no doubt that the power play was frustrating for the Bruins after finishing second in the 2019-20 season.
No. 4 – Marchand Does Not Get Suspended
Veteran Brad Marchand made it through the season without getting suspended and it was a good thing he did. He led the Bruins in goals with 29, assists with 40, for a team-leading 69 points. He also had a team-high plus-26. He led the Bruins in power play assists (14) and points (18), while also scoring four shorthanded goals.
Marchand missed just three games this season, two because of a false positive COVID-19 test and the final regular-season game for rest before the playoffs as the Bruins were locked into the third-seed in the MassMutual East Division. As his career has gone along, he has been much better in his behavior and that has allowed him to stay on the ice more. His maturity over the last couple of seasons along with his play and leadership has been a big asset to the Bruins.
Of the four predictions, McAvoy finishing fifth in the Norris Trophy voting, and Marchand not get suspended were the only two that were correct. The power play struggles are something that haunted the Bruins over the second half of the season and Hanifin is someone that will always be on Sweeney’s radar and it would not surprise anyone to see him become a Bruin in the future. Overall, going 2-for-4 is not bad in bold predictions in a shortened season.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.