At the beginning of the season, I wrote an article with four bold predictions for the Boston Bruins for the 2020-21 season. Now that the Bruins have hit the midway point of the season, let’s check-in and see how those predictions are going to this point.
No. 1 – McAvoy Finishes in Top 5 for Norris Trophy
This one is on pace to becoming reality. When the season began, there was a lot of pressure on Charlie McAvoy to take over the leadership role on defense when Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara left in free agency. Paired recently with Matt Grzelcyk, McAvoy has been better than what the Bruins had hoped for.
McAvoy has three goals and 14 assists in 28 games and his offensive game has taken big strides. Averaging 24:02 a night, he has been one of the few Bruins defensemen that have remained healthy this season. In Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, he played 30:44, more than half the game. If his play continues in the second half the way it has in the first, it would be hard not to see him as a finalist for the James Norris trophy.
No. 2 – Bruins Trade For Defensemen Noah Hanifin
There’s no doubt that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney would like to add to the blue line before the trade deadline on April 12 and Hanifin is someone who fills their need. The Bruins left side has been devastated with injuries early in the season and in late February, Sweeney claimed Jarred Tinordi off of waivers from the Nashville Predators for depth. Tinordi recently joined the growing list of defensemen injured after taking a hit from Brandon Tanev of the Penguins in Tuesday’s game.
The Bruins have been linked to the Calgary Flames defensemen for some time and Hanifin would be a perfect fit in Boston. He is in the third year of a six-year, $29.7 million contract that carries a $4.95 cap hit. The Flames are three points out of playoff position in the Scotia North Division standings, but would they willing to part ways with their 24-year-old blueliner? That remains to be seen.
Expect Sweeney to check in on the availability of Hanifin to see what the asking price would be. He would be the top-four defensemen the Bruins could use and would be under team control for the duration of the window that is closing with the teams core players.
No. 3 – Bruins Power Play Ranks in the Top 3
This prediction looked good at the beginning of the season, but things have trended in the wrong direction in the last month. After being ranked in the top five early in the season, they have slipped to 11th in the league, and not getting production from the unit has been a reason for their struggles as of late. Despite missing David Pastrnak for the first seven games of the season as he recovered from hip surgery, the power play was producing because of the play of Nick Ritchie.
Pastrnak leads the team with six power play goals since his return, Ritchie is second with five and Patrice Bergeron has four. After that, Marchand and Jake DeBrusk each have two. Last season, the Bruins power play was a big reason why they won the Presidents’ Trophy, but this season, it has been a miss more than a hit. Does it have to do with Krug leaving in free agency? Maybe. Matt Grzelcyk, who has missed 13 games with various injuries, was expected to take Krug’s spot on the man advantage and has one goal with four assists.
It seems unlikely that this prediction comes true, but the Bruins, who have scored a power play goal in each of their last three games, would benefit from getting more scoring on the man advantage if they want to finish in the top four in the division.
No. 4 – Marchand Does Not Get Suspended
Marchand has been on his best behavior so far this season and the Bruins need him to keep it that way. He is second on the team with 12 goals and he has 22 assists. With Boston lacking secondary scoring again this season, they need Marchand as much as possible with Bergeron and Pastrnak. The trio has combined to score 36 of Boston’s 77 goals.
Marchand has just 22 penalty minutes this season, and as his career has gone on, he has matured as a player. His antics have been fewer and far between. The Bruins are going to need Marchand on the ice as much as possible moving forward in the final 28 games of the season and have him continue to behave well.
How Many Predictions Come True?
How many of these bold predictions will actually come true? We will soon find out. If the Bruins are going to make the playoffs, they will need multiple of them to become reality. We will check back at the end of the season to see how right or wrong these predictions were.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. 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.