With the Boston Bruins inching closer to beginning the season against the New Jersey Devils on Jan. 14, it’s time for some bold predictions for 2020-21. This season will be a shortened 56-game sprint to the finish, but even with 26 fewer games than a normal season, there will be plenty of storylines.
Things are going to have a different look for the Black and Gold this season, but regardless, here are four bold predictions as the Bruins look to work their way through the season in unprecedented times.
McAvoy Finishes in Top 5 for Norris Trophy
Last season, Charlie McAvoy finished 10th in voting for the Norris Trophy, which is awarded to the top defensemen, behind a loaded pool of blueliners. This season with Torey Krug leaving for the St. Louis Blues and Zdeno Chara bolting to the Washington Capitals in free agency, McAvoy will have more of a load on his shoulders, and the 23-year-old appears ready for the challenge.
Last season, he struggled before the All-Star break, but after the Bruins returned from their 10-day pause, he was a different player. Over the final 18 games, before the season paused on March 12, he had 15 points and was a plus-16. He set a career-high in assists with 27 and with his average time on ice average at 23:10. Krug’s departure also leaves a hole on defense on the power play and McAvoy will be one of the candidates to fill that spot.
If he is able to carry over his play from last season and fill some of the void left by Krug leaving, McAvoy is more than capable of having a career season, even in a shortened campaign. He has a good chance to inch closer to the top of the voting than he did last season.
Bruins Trade For Defenseman Noah Hanifin
With Krug and Chara leaving, the Bruins appear ready to go with younger defensemen to begin the season and the left side of the unit could use an addition. At some point, general manager Don Sweeney will look at add a veteran on defense and the Calgary Flames might be the trade partner Sweeney is looking for to get a deal done.
The Bruins have been linked to the Flames about acquiring former Boston College defenseman Noah Hanifin. The 23-year-old Boston native has been durable for Calgary, missing just nine regular-season games in four years. He would be a top-four defenseman that would add depth to the left side. Hanifin has four years remaining on a six-year, $29.7 million contract that carries a $4.95 million cap hit.
Hanifin, the fifth overall pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2015 Entry Draft, has been on Sweeney’s radar and it would not surprise anyone if he makes a run at him by the April 12 trade deadline.
Bruins Power Play Ranks in the Top 3
Losing Krug as the power play captain is a big blow, but McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk are two candidates to step in fill the void as veterans of last season’s second-ranked unit. They won’t replace all the production that Krug supplied, but with the talent around them, the unit should be very productive.
David Pastrnak will be out to begin the season as he recovers from hip surgery in September, but Ondrej Kase and free-agent signee Craig Smith are more than capable of holding down the fort until the Bruins’ top goal-scorer returns.
Brad Marchand (five goals and 23 assists on the power play) and Patrice Bergeron (11 goals and nine assists on the PP) return, while Jake DeBrusk and his seven goals and three assists on the man advantage are also back after he signed a two-year deal in the offseason.
The Bruins rely on the power-play production as much as any team does in the league with their secondary scoring issues 5-on-5. With most of the group back, there is too much talent to see a big drop off.
Marchand Does Not Get Suspended
Over his 11-year career, Brad Marchand has had many hearings with the NHL for his on-ice antics. He has been suspended eight different times in his career, but he recently has been avoiding any hearings by cleaning up his act.
Marchand was second last season on the team in points with 87 and had a team-high 59 assists. It’s no secret that the Bruins’ top line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak has become one of the best lines in the league when Marchand is better behaved. This prediction might seem odd, but in a 56-game season, they are going to need him on the ice every night possible.
With the new realigned divisions for this season to limit the travel during COVID-19, the Bruins could very well need a couple of these bold predictions to become reality if they want to make a deep playoff run.
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.