With the 2021-22 season coming to a close for the Boston Bruins, it’s time to look back at five bold preseason predictions I made for the Black and Gold and see how I fared. When we checked in at the midway point of the season, things were not going well and it appears that despite Boston getting into the playoffs, some of the predictions ended up being a struggle this season.
1. Charlie Coyle Finishes With 40-Plus Assists
When David Krejci left last summer to continue his career in his home country of the Czech Republic, general manager Don Sweeney never filled the second center spot behind Patrice Bergeron. Coyle beat out Jack Studnicka for the spot out of training camp, despite not participating much, and struggled between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith. In fact, the whole line struggled and coach Bruce Cassidy made some changes on Jan. 1, which turned out better for all players involved.
Coyle was moved down to the third line with Smith and Trent Frederic and they formed an instant connection and made the Black and Gold three lines deep. Unfortunately, it was not enough to help Coyle achieve this prediction as he finished the season with 28 assists. As the season went on, he got better and better, but he remained healthy and played in 82 games.
2. Both Special Teams Finish in the Top 5
This one is a big swing and a miss. The Bruins’ power play was good at the beginning of the season, but in the final month of the regular season, it was a very big struggle. David Pastrnak missed most of the month of April with an injury, but still, there was just too much talent for the unit to go through a 0-for-39 slump. Cassidy tried many different combinations with Jake DeBursk, Coyle, and even Nick Foligno getting some time with the first group, but it just never worked out.
As for the penalty kill, it was consistent all season for the Bruins and was a big reason why they were able to withstand the struggles of the power play during the month of April. The Bruins took more penalties than they have in the past at the end of the season, with a lot of them self-inflicted with too many men on the ice and delay of games for playing the puck over the glass. Aside from the top penalty killers in Brandon Carlo, Bergeron, and Brad Marchand, the Bruins got key contributions from Tomas Nosek, Curtis Lazar, Foligno, Coyle, DeBrusk, Derek Forbort, and Mike Reilly.
This prediction turned out to be a miss, but in reality, who could have seen the power-play struggle as bad as it did, mainly in the final month of the season? The power play finished 15th and the penalty kill was ninth overall.
3. Jake DeBrusk Scores 30-Plus Goals
All indications were that Jake DeBrusk was going to have a bounce-back season and why not? The 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft had shown the skill set the Bruins thought they were getting when he scored a career-high 27 goals in the 2018-19 season and then 19 more in the shortened 2019-20 season. In 2020-21, he struggled with being a healthy scratch and scoring just five goals.
DeBrusk ended up with 25 goals this season, five short of making this prediction being a winner, and was fourth on the Bruins, but it was more of how he got there. It was revealed in November that he requested a trade from the Bruins through his agent, then over the winter, it was revealed that the trade request actually was made last summer. While all signs pointed to a trade by the March 21 deadline, it didn’t happen.
Five hours before the deadline, the Bruins announced that they agreed to a two-year contract extension that carried a $4 million cap hit. The thought was that signing him to an extension would make it easier for teams to acquire the 25-year-old, who was scheduled to be a restricted free agent (RFA) with a $4.41 million qualifying offer, without worrying about a contract issue. Who knew that holding onto him was going to have its benefits?
He was moved up to the first line right wing with Marchand and Bergeron in late February and he looked like the 2018-19 DeBrusk as compared to the 2020-21 DeBrusk. He jelled with the two future Hall of Famers and solidified the first line. There are going to be a lot of questions surrounding DeBrusk this upcoming offseason, whether the Bruins keep him or finally move on from him.
4. Jeremy Swayman Wins 20-Plus Games
In January, this prediction did not look promising as Tuukka Rask returned from offseason hip surgery, which sent Jeremy Swayman to the minors. His return to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) did not last long as Rask ended up retiring in early February, which officially turned the goaltending duties to Swayman and Linus Ullmark.
Swayman and Ullmark basically split the season and Swayman ended up following his breakthrough 2020-21 season with a 23-win season and allowed this prediction to be correct. He ended up 23-14-3 with a 2.41 goals-against average (GAA) and a .914 save percentage (SV%). He also finished with three shutouts and won the NESN 7th Player Award. There is not much more for the former University of Maine goalie to do to prove himself as he is clearly the future between the pipes in Boston.
5. Bruins Finish First or Second in the Atlantic Division
Despite being one of the best teams in the NHL in the final four months, the Bruins dug themselves too deep of a hole prior to the COVID-19 shutdown in December and finished in fourth place behind the Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tampa Bay Lightning. It gave Boston the first wild card spot and a First Round Stanley Cup Playoffs matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Eastern Conference was loaded this season as all eight teams that made the postseason all had at least 100 points. The teams ahead of the Bruins in the division are going nowhere anytime soon, so it is going to be tough sledding for the Black and Gold the next couple of seasons.
It was not a good 2021-22 season in terms of predictions, going just 1-for-5. Apparently, I had higher expectations going into the season than the Bruins could handle. Now the 2022 offseason begins with the Bruins facing a lot of questions, mainly focused on what the roster will look like on Opening Night next fall. What could possibly happen over the summer? I will have another Bruins prediction piece for this summer in the coming days.
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.