The Bruins have opened their season tonight and I could not be more excited to have hockey back.
Now this is the first season in a while that the Bruins aren’t among the favorites to represent the Whales Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t make some noise and be an entertaining, playoff team.
But to do so three things need to happen:
1. David Krejci must be a driving force in this team’s offense.
If you look at recent Bruins seasons their fate has largely been tied to David Krejci’s health and performance.
2010: Mike Richards obliterates Krejci in game 3 against the Flyers and the Bruins don’t win another game.
2011: David Krejci is a driving force behind the top line’s production and helps them win a Stanley Cup.
2012: After an excellent regular season, Krejci is basically lobotomized by a pane of rink glass after an OT win and disappears for the rest of the Bruins 7 game series loss to the Caps.
2013: Once again Krejci is immense, leads the B’s to the Cup finals and is probably the Conn Smythe winner if Chris Kelly hits an open net in OT.
2014: After his best regular season as a pro, Krejci inexplicably goes MIA against the Habs in the 2nd round of the playoffs & the Bruins lose in 7.
2015: Krejci is hampered by injuries for almost half a season and without his offence the Bruins fail to make the post season for the 1st time since 2007
It’s pretty clear what a pivotal cog Krejci is in driving goal production and this season he’s needed more than ever. A vintage Krejci is the difference between Matt Beleskey earning his free agent money or becoming the Bruins next fan whipping boy.
2. The young Defense has to step up.
The Bad News: The only remaining member of the 2011 Bruins defense who will be on the ice opening night is Adam McQuaid.
The Good News: He won’t have to cover for Tomas Kaberle’s quivering sphincter.
We all can see the Defense is a complete mess. Chara is out tonight with a nagging upper body injury that feel to me like one of those soft tissue rib injuries that lingers for weeks/months. Seidenberg just had surgery to repair a herniated disk. The pillars of that 2011 Cup run are crumbling.
We know what McQuaid and Kevan Millar are. Solid defensive options that are best suited in 3rd pairing roles. The hope this year was that Krug would prove he’s a legitimate 2nd pairing D and has the one year deal to prove it.
If this team is going to make the post season they need Zach Trottman, Joe Morrow, Matt Irwin and Colin Miller to step up.
The good news is that all of these guys have shown flashes either last season on this preseason. Chara and Seidenberg’s absence will give everyone of these guys ample chance to prove they belong and they can help what looks to be a weak group of blueliners. And more importantly, Claude has no choice but to play them so they don’t need to fear getting sent to the Gulag for the defensively irresponsible if they make a mistake. At least for now.
3. Tuukka Rask can’t be ordinary.
Last season Tuukka Rask’s statline wasn’t his best. .922 Save percentage. 2.30 Goals against. Not Rask’s usual Vezina worthy self.
But the stat you need to look at is this: 70 games played. Tuukka was a horse last season and if the D, and quite frankly, the entire team wasn’t a smoldering dung heap, he would have been in the Vezina conversation once again.
This year it’s clear that the team will have to lean on Rask once again, and especially early on when the young D are bound to have growing pains. Not only will Rask have to play at least 65 games but hell have to be on every night.
If not we may see a fire-sale at the deadline.