It is no secret that over the past decade, the Boston Bruins have relied heavily on their special teams. Whether it’s the power play or the penalty kill, special teams have been a big part of the success that the Black and Gold has had. If the Bruins are going to have success in 2021-22, they will once again need both units to be near the top of the league.
As there is with every season, there was roster turnover which will affect both units. Ahead of the regular-season opener against the Dallas Stars at the TD Garden on Saturday night, let’s take a look at the Bruins’ new-look special teams for this season.
New Look Power Play
Prior to the 2020-21 season, Boston lost a key piece to the power play when defensemen Torey Krug left in free agency and the Bruins fell to 10th overall in the league in the 56-game shortened season. Then this offseason, the first unit took another hit when David Krejci decided to leave and continue his career in the Czech Republic. Those are two big losses on a unit that was one of the most dangerous in the NHL. Here is what the two new power play units could look like when the team is healthy.
First Power Play Unit
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, and Charlie McAvoy.
In the preseason, this first unit looked locked in together. They moved the puck crisply, showed patience, and when they didn’t score, they had golden chances. Were they going against the other team’s top penalty-killing units? Against the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers, no, but the Washington Capitals had a lot of their regulars in the final preseason game.
There is a lot of talent on this unit, despite the losses they have suffered over the last two offseasons. Hall replacing Krejci is not much of a drop-off, and McAvoy has looked comfortable with the four forwards early on. You know what you are getting in Marchand and Bergeron, while Pastrnak setting up on the left side of the ice ready to uncork his slap shot is still dangerous and key to what the Bruins look to do.
Second Power Play Unit
Jake DeBrusk, Erik Haula, Nick Foligno, Craig Smith, and Matt Grzelcyk.
There will be adjusting with this unit all season long. Charlie Coyle, who only played in the final preseason game due to a nagging knee injury, will find himself on the second unit or even on the first unit at times, but the results with both units in the two home preseason games were as good as you would have liked. After Krug left, Grzelcyk was thought of as the guy who was going to replace him last season, but multiple injuries kept him sidelined, which forced Cassidy at different points in the season to go with a five-forward unit.
The wild card in this group is DeBrusk, who had a very good training camp and preseason. Haula and Foligno are veterans who have had power play success with some of their previous teams, while Smith is not afraid to shoot the puck from anywhere at any time. Getting scoring chances should not be a problem with either unit, which should produce enough to rank them near the top of the league.
First Penalty Killing Unit
Bergeron, Marchand, Brandon Carlo, and Derek Forbort.
Like the power play, the PK underwent some changes this offseason. Last season, former defensemen Jeremy Lauzon led the Bruins in time-on-ice shorthanded, but he was the player the Bruins lost in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. Also gone is Sean Kuraly, who left in free agency for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Kuraly struggled on the fourth-line 5-on-5 with Boston, but he was one of the penalty killers that Cassidy could count on.
The first unit is led by Bergeron and Marchand upfront. In 2020-21, they combined for seven shorthanded goals in the shortened season. They are dangerous no matter what the situation is for the Bruins. Forbort was signed as a free agent in July and he is someone who can play in all situations for coach Bruce Cassidy and penalty-killing will be at the top of the list. Last season with the Winnipeg Jets, he blocked 115 shots and at 6-foot-4, his long reach, like Carlo’s, can frustrate opponents.
Second Penalty Killing Unit
This is going to depend on who plays each night, mostly from the fourth line. You are almost certain to see any combination of Foligno, DeBrusk, Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman, Anton Blidh, Haula, or even Coyle as forwards. On defense, Connor Clifton, Grzelcyk, McAvoy, or even John Moore when he’s in the lineup could see key shifts down a man. This could very well end up being an all-hands-on-deck unit.
Despite Offseason Subtractions, Both Units Should Succeed
As they have with every other recent Boston Bruins season, the special teams are going to play a big part in the success or struggles of the Black and Gold. Yes, there were some key subtractions on both units, but there is no shortage of replacements where there should not be a significate drop-off.
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.