Qualifying for the playoffs for the 5th consecutive season, the Boston Bruins won 33 games in the league’s shortened 2020-21 season. Earning the third seed in the East Division, the team was led by longtime goaltender Tuukka Rask and star left winger Brad Marchand. Pacing Bruce Cassidy‘s team with 29 goals and 40 assists in 53 games, the 33-year-old Marchand finished 6th in the NHL’s goal-scoring race. Making a splash at the trade deadline in April, general manager Don Sweeney acquired the former number one pick Taylor Hall.
Enjoying a resurgence down the final stretch of the regular season, the one-time member of the Buffalo Sabres racked up 14 points in 16 games. Poised to make a run at the Stanley Cup, the Bruins dispatched of the Washington Capitals in the opening round. They won four straight meetings after falling behind in the series following their game one loss. However, the team would ultimately fall short of its ultimate goal after being defeated by the New York Islanders in six games in round two.
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By the Numbers
Power Play: 21.88% (10th in the league)
Penalty Kill: 86.0 % (2nd in the league)
Goals For: 168
Goals Against: 136
Best Player – Brad Marchand
In a close race with sniper and fellow linemate David Pastrnak, the edge goes to Marchand. Averaging over a point per game for the fifth straight season, the 12-year veteran led the Bruins with 69 points in 53 games. Remaining deadly on special teams, the former third-round pick racked up four powerplay goals and four shorthanded goals. Playing over eighteen minutes per night alongside Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron on one of the most prolific lines in the league, he also continues to be one of the best two-way wingers in the game. Finishing the regular season a plus 26, the Halifax Mooseheads alumn recorded 66 hits and 42 takeaways. Maintaining his strong play during the Bruins playoff run, Marchand led the team with eight goals in 12 games, including two game-winners.
Biggest Disappointment – Jake DeBrusk
Struggling all season long, Boston failed to get any consistent production from winger Jake DeBrusk. A healthy scratch for a chunk of the season, including in-game five vs the Islanders, he registered career lows in goals (5), assists (9), and points (14). Called out for his lack of effort and inconsistency by head coach Bruce Cassidy, the former first-round pick finished the season with just a 5.4 percent shooting percentage, a six percent drop from last year. Signing a two-year extension with the team back in November, Debrusk is set to become a restricted free agent after the 2022 season. With a substantial $3.6 million cap hit tied to him in 2022, the 24-year-old has begun to see his name floated in trade talks.
Behind the Bench (Coaching) Analysis
A former Jack Adams award nominee in 2019, Cassidy continues to be one of the premier bench bosses across the league. Helping the team deal with the losses of longtime captain Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug in the offseason, he also dealt with injuries throughout the lineup for the majority of the season. Without Pastrnak for the first few weeks of the year, as he recovered from hip surgery, the Bruins also saw defenseman Kevan Miller, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk all miss time. Furthermore, both Rask and backup goaltender Jaroslav Halak both missed chunks of the season, leading the team to turn to their rookie netminders. Ultimately guiding Boston to their fifth straight playoff appearance, the 56-year-old finished 11th in coach of the year voting.
Front Office Analysis (GM)
Closing out his sixth season as the team’s general manager, Sweeney made the move of the trade deadline. Acquiring Hall from the Buffalo Sabres, he surrendered forward Anders Bjork and a second-round pick while also getting forward Curtis Lazar. In addition to this, with the team battling injuries on the backend all season long, Sweeney strengthened his blue line with the addition of defenseman Mike Reilly. Sending back a 2022 third-round pick to acquire the 27-year-old, Reilly bolstered Boston’s blue line. Appearing in 15 games for the team, he racked up eight points and 16 hits while playing over 20 minutes a night on average. A one-time winner of the Jim Gregory Award for the league’s top general manager two seasons ago, Sweeney continues to be one of the finest executives in the game.
2021 NHL Entry Draft Picks/Prognosis
Currently holding seven picks in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins are without their second-round selection after trading it away in the Hall deal. Furthermore, the team will also hold an extra seventh-round choice after acquiring it from the Toronto Maple Leafs a year ago for center Ryan Tverberg. With the team’s Stanley Cup window beginning to shrink as both Bergeron and Marchand enter their 13th and 18th years in the league, look for their front office to focus on adding depth on defense. Furthermore, with both Rask and center David Krejci set to hit unrestricted free agency in July, expect the team to look at adding depth forwards to improve their bottom six.
Off-Season Wishlist/ Checklist and Prognosis for 2021-22
With about 27 million dollars in cap space to spend during the offseason, look for the team to focus on keeping their own to extend their championship window. Once again last season, a productive player looks for Krejci to resign with the team on a short-term deal at a lower cap hit as he enters his age 35 season. Furthermore, expect Boston to approach the idea of bringing back Rask on a one or two-year deal before they turn the net over to young netminder Jeremy Swayman.
Vocal about his love for the Bruins after landing with the team, if the money makes sense, look for Sweeney to ink Hall to a long-term deal in the six million dollar range. Finally, as their restricted free agent list begins to pile up, Boston will face tough decisions as they choose who to tender contracts to. Highlighted by defenseman Brandon Carlo, winger Nick Ritchie and Center Trent Frederic join the former second-round pick on the list of players searching for new deals.
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