The NHL season is two months away and hockey fans are getting antsy. Boston Bruins fans are eager to see a contender. After failing to make the playoffs two years in a row, the team fell to the Ottawa Senators during the first round in April.While the Bruins are not necessarily Stanley Cup contenders, the fan base expects a better result than a first round exit and the club has the ability to meet that criterion.
Established players such as Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, David Backes, Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug will be joined by prospects making the leap from the AHL. Not to mention guys like David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano, Riley Nash, Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller who have already plugged holes in the roster.
Boston fans are ready and willing to kiss the defense-focused era of coach Claude Julien goodbye. His system won the Cup in 2011, but the game of hockey is shifting. The bar is set at multiple championships per decade to be considered a dominant team in the league. Speed and youth are now at the epicenter of the sport, and the Bruins are finally joining the movement.
If the Bruins are going to make it past the first round of the 2018 playoffs, it’s going to start with a strong regular season, and that means a strong offensive showing. They will be in a good position come April if these four players can combine for 120 goals.
No. 4 – David Krejci
David Krejci has never scored 30 goals in an NHL season.
Why is that? He averaged 62.25 points-per-season from 2008-09 to the 2011-12 season. Assists make up 69.9% of those points.
Following the lockout of 2012, Krejci was plagued by injuries. He’s made just 281 appearances in the past four seasons, which does not include the countless playoff series where No. 46 has been missing.
Krejci’s best performance post-lockout featured just 19 goals but a whopping 50 assists during the 2013-14 campaign.
He is No. 4 on this list because he is capable of scoring 30 goals. Krejci has cycled through a number of linemates throughout his career in Boston. With the inability to develop chemistry with any of them over the course of multiple seasons, it’s a miracle the Bruins centerman has performed so efficiently, let alone scored 20 goals in a season.
For a number of years, he played the point on the power play. While he has made a home out of it, it has prevented the play-making forward from scoring. Krejci has scored just 31 power play goals in his career, while he has assisted 101.
Charlie McAvoy and Krug will captain the Bruins’ power play going forward. Zdeno Chara will likely continue to feature his slap shot – let’s hope Bruce Cassidy never feels compelled to throw him in to screen the goalie. It would be wise to give Carlo some quality time on the man advantage this year. The young defenseman is coming off an impressive rookie season and will continue to develop into a top-two defenseman alongside Chara.
With Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak being a possible first power play line, Krejci could center the second with Backes, Ryan Spooner, Frank Vatrano or a rookie making the jump from Providence.
Krejci’s lopsided power play statistics are also due to his pass-first nature. While the Bruins can remember a number of his highlight-reel goals from the past decade, he often tries to set up his teammates before cashing in himself. When he is most effective, Krejci patiently draws in defenders, opening up a seam to send the puck to an open winger in the slot. But his patience can also be his downfall.
There are many instances where the centerman’s mind seems to be stranded between the options of pass and shoot. Then again, in the odd case where Krejci can’t connect with a teammate, it’s easy to say he should shoot the puck instead.
It’s also easy to say that though he has never registered 170 shots in an NHL season, he has dipped below a shooting percentage of 10% only twice since the 2007-08 campaign.
If No. 46 takes more shots and finds chemistry with a rookie, he could be on his way to his first 30-goal season. The key is consistency; for too many seasons we’ve seen Krejci’s linemates come and go. He has the tools required to have a 30-goal season. It is a matter of putting the pieces together.
If he can’t break the 30-goal barrier, other members of this list could certainly compensate.
No. 3 – Patrice Bergeron
Patrice Bergeron has three 30-goal seasons under his belt. For a two-way forward with four Selke Trophies, that is an impressive feat. He broke the threshold most recently during the 2015-16 season, scoring 32 goals and assisting on 36. With linemates Marchand and Pastrnak, another 30-goal season is not out of the question.
The fact of the matter is that he is the type of player who never seems to make a bad play. Even the penalties he takes rob opponents of scoring chances more often than not. With solid wingers and special teams, the Bruins’ alternate captain is able to produce at a rate that can propel him past the 30-goal threshold.
Averaging nearly 19 minutes per game throughout his career, Bergeron gets the ice time to meet the margin. As the Bruins’ No. 1 center, he has averaged a face-off percentage of 58.5% throughout his career. His ability to generate possession ultimately contributes to the team’s success and allows the gold medalist to cash in on goals of his own.
Though it may not contribute much to his totals, it is worth mentioning that Bergeron has scored a short-handed goal in each of his three 30-goal seasons.
He also has the ability to make the players around him better. Other members of this list wouldn’t be on it if it weren’t for him. The Quebec-native is a proven leader who is expected to become captain once Chara hangs up his skates.
No. 2 – David Pastrnak
Pastrnak is the focus of all the buzz this offseason. The 21-year-old has yet to re-sign after an impressive first full season, scoring 34 goals and 70 points through 75 games.
Considering the forward’s restricted status and the ample cap space at the front office’s disposal, it is safe to say Pastrnak will be in Boston next season. While the Bruins try to ink a deal with the young winger, fans should look forward to another 30-goal performance.
Ten of Pastrnak’s 34 goals came on the power play last season while he notched a total of 262 shots on goal. Exactly 13% of those shots found their way into the net while No. 88 has scored on 12.7% of his shots in his young career. Through 172 NHL games, Pastrnak has scored 59 goals, 47 of which came at even strength.
With linemates ranging from Marchand and Bergeron to Krejci and Backes, it is easy to understand why the Czech-native has been able to produce. Comparing Pastrnak to NHL stars in the dawn of their careers, it’s safe to say that No. 88 is going to be scoring a lot of goals for a long time.
It is his confidence in every zone that sets him apart. He is not afraid to skate the puck through traffic and has a knack for getting open for his teammates on the rush. He is an offensive triple-threat with a strong shot, pass and dangle when he has possession of the puck.
Pastrnak averaged 17:59 of time-on-ice during the 2016-17 campaign and will surely receive similar if not more ice time next season. That should be plenty of time for him to score 30 goals once again – it only took him 63 games to reach the plateau last year.
No. 1 – Brad Marchand
Marchand has broken the 30-goal threshold in both of the last two seasons. The 28-year-old will be expected to do so again following 39 goals and 46 assists during the 2016-17 campaign, both of which are career highs. The performance was enough to send the winger the 2017 All Star game.
The 2015-16 campaign was the first in which Marchand averaged more than 17 minutes a game, while this past season he averaged 19:26, an increase that has helped his production.
Marchand has scored 192 goals throughout his career, only 29 of which came on the power play. Another 22 came while the Bruins were killing a penalty.
After barely making it past the 50-point threshold during the onset of his career, No. 63 is now a point-per-game player. He is a clutch performer who has scored 15 game-winning goals in the past two seasons.
Though he is considered a villain around the league, Marchand has become a hero to fans in Boston. His scoring ability is unmatched by any of his teammates, and the club would be lost without his presence.
Marchand is No. 1 on this list because he is, barring injury, a shoe-in to score 30 or more goals this year. Even a 40-goal season is not out of the question, as the Halifax-native alone could compensate for Krejci’s lopsided offensive statistics.
With Marchand leading the way, these four players will likely combine for a total of 120 goals next season.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.