As the Boston Bruins drop the puck on the 2020-21 NHL season, things are going to look a lot different. From losing two key pieces to their defense over the last decade, to new divisions, to a 56-game shortened season, this season will be a sprint to the finish instead of the normal marathon.
If the Bruins are going to continue the regular-season success they had last season, they will need some things to go their way. There is little room for error this season and these three keys will go a long way in determining how the season plays out.
1. Defense Grows up Fast
Losing Torey Krug to the St. Louis Blues and Zdeno Chara to the Washington Capitals in free agency, the Bruins will be a lot younger on the blue line. Sweeney and the front office is hoping that Charlie McAvoy continues to develop his game and become the leader of the defense.
Matt Grzelcyk was brought back on a four-year deal, while Brandon Carlo and Jeremy Lauzon appear to round out the top-four. Despite not playing in a game since April 2019 because of an injured kneecap in the playoffs, Kevan Miller was brought back and has impressed in camp so much that coach Bruce Cassidy has moved him ahead of Connor Clifton on the right-handed depth chart. Youngster Jakub Zboril has impressed in camp enough to be paired with Miller on the third pairing in camp.
There is plenty of young talent that the Bruins’ have on defense. They just need them to get through any growing pains early in the season and prove that moving on from Krug and Chara won’t be a mistake.
2. Win Some Shootouts
One of the most stunning stats that came out of the 2019-20 season was the Bruins’ record in shootouts. They went winless in seven shootouts over the 70-game season, but somehow, they still found a way to be the only team in the league to finish the shortened season with 100 points and won the Presidents’ Trophy.
The misery in the shootout hit its lowest point on Jan. 13 at Philadelphia. Needing to score to extend the shootout to another round against the Flyers, Brad Marchand overskated the puck at the center-ice dot and it was ruled a missed attempt. That play summed up the Bruins’ futility in the shootouts all season long.
Boston did win six games in overtime, but moving forward with the 2020-21 season, the Bruins will need to solve their shootout woes. They are in a new East Division and will play each opponent eight times. It is arguably the toughest division of the four and every point that is available each night will be important at the end of the regular season. There is too much talent to go winless in shootouts for a second consecutive season.
3. Special Teams
Last season, the Bruins had the league’s second-ranked power play, just behind the Edmonton Oilers. The lack of secondary scoring was not as troublesome because of the success of the power play.
However, as the new season begins, Krug is gone and so is his 26 assists on the man advantage. David Patrnak and his 28 power-play goals will begin the season recovering from hip surgery in September, but the other key pieces return. There are plenty of forward options to hold the fort down until Pastrnak returns, while McAvoy and Grzelcyk are two obvious choices to replace Krug at the point.
The Bruins were just as effective killing penalties as they ranked in the top-five all season long. It would be in Boston’s best interest to have success both on the power play and killing penalties for a second consecutive season as it was their bread and butter last season.
Interesting Season Ahead
If the Bruins are going to survive the 56-game regular-season, some of the little stuff will go a long way in determining if they finish in the top four in the East Division and get into the playoffs. There is no question that the window for winning a championship with the core group is closing fast and this could be their last run together at winning another Stanley Cup.
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.