In honor of the start of the holiday season, let’s take a look at some reasons for Bruins fans to be thankful this year. While the 2019-20 season didn’t end the way anyone would have liked, there were still plenty of positives to come out of it. There’s also still reason to be excited about the team as the 2020-21 season draws closer (hopefully).
The Continued Excellence of the Perfection Line
The “Perfection Line” of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak has been one of the best lines in hockey over the last several seasons. The line has covered up a lot of the weaknesses in the Bruins’ forward depth during the regular season, and they’re also just fun to watch. When this line is on the ice, more often than not, you’ll see something exciting happen.
In 2019-20, Pastrnak and Marchand both finished top ten in regular-season scoring. Bergeron was named a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy for a record-setting ninth consecutive season and had a faceoff win percentage of 57.9. Bergeron and Marchand are 35 and 32, respectfully, yet seem to be only getting better with age.
There are some good arguments for splitting up the perfection line to try and cover up for some of the team’s continued struggles with consistent depth scoring. Moving Pastrnak to the second line to play with David Krejci seems to be the most popular suggestion that gets floated around. But the idea has been tossed around for a while now, and coach Bruce Cassidy seems hesitant to split up the three of them. It’s hard to think about splitting up a group that is so successful when they’re on the ice together.
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No matter what happens with the perfection line in 2020-21, all three players have proven their elite status over the past few seasons, and Bruins fans have more exciting hockey to watch out of them.
Successful RFA Signings
Before the 2019-20 season, the Bruins had two big pieces of their defense as restricted free agents: Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. They signed McAvoy to a three-year, $14.7 million contract at the start of training camp, and Carlo was signed to a two-year, $5.7 million contract a few days later. Both went on to have excellent seasons, as Carlo hit a career-high in points and McAvoy tied his career-high in points from 2017-18.
This offseason, the Bruins once again had two important pieces of their team as RFAs. After arguably his best season in the NHL, they signed Matt Grzelcyk to a four-year, $14.75 million deal back in October. Then this week, they signed forward Jake DeBrusk to a two-year, $7.35 million contract. The signing is good for both sides, as it’s a friendly cap hit for the team and allows DeBrusk an opportunity to bet on himself and become a more consistent player, potentially setting himself up for a big payday in two years.
In an age of very talented and impactful RFA classes, the fact that the Bruins have managed to keep these four players on fair deals that satisfy both sides without creating any bad blood is something to be excited about. We’ve all seen how some of the other RFA deals have gone around the league. The Bruins continue to have some of the arguably best contracts in the NHL.
Excellent Leadership Group
If this is really the end of Zdeno Chara’s career, then what a great tenure it has been. For fourteen years, the big man has captained this team, and they’ve benefited from having him as a leader. Beyond the team, Chara’s impact on the Boston community is something truly admirable.
The good thing is that Chara isn’t the only leader in the room. Bergeron is an excellent alternate captain, and on almost any other team in the league, he would have already been named captain. Marchand has matured on the ice over the last season and has been an excellent moodmaker in the room.
The Bruins have been able to integrate a strong group of talented young players with an established core that has played together for almost a decade. That’s a reflection on the leadership of the core, and it’s another reason why they’ve been successful in recent years.
Exciting Group of Young Players
The Bruins already have excellent pieces to build the team around for years to come. Pastrnak is a top forward in the league, and McAvoy is a top defenseman. DeBrusk has the potential to turn into a consistent 30-goal scorer, and Carlo is a stay-at-home defenseman who doesn’t get a lot of attention for his consistent and talented play. While he hasn’t played any professional hockey yet, Jeremy Swayman has garnered high praises for his play at the University of Maine. The hope is that he’ll be the goalie of the future, another piece of the next Bruins core.
While there will be changes to the roster in coming years, it’s reassuring to see that the team has a next-generation already playing excellent hockey in the NHL. If this current core ever decides to play their age, the team already has future pieces to build around.
The Window is Still Open
All of this culminates to the ultimate reason for Bruins’ fans to be thankful going into the next season; the window is still open. Is it getting smaller? Yes. But this is the NHL, where the difference between one team making the playoffs over another often comes down to only a point or two, where wild card teams can take out the number one seeds in the first round of the postseason.
On paper, the Bruins aren’t necessarily better going into 2020-21, but they are far from untalented. It won’t be easy; the Tampa Bay Lightning are still elite, and other Atlantic teams have made some excellent moves this offseason. But if we’ve learned anything in the last year, it’s that anything and everything can happen and change in a split second.
Whenever the next season starts, Bruins fans have a lot to be excited about.