One of the best parts about SB Nation is that we have easy access to hockey fans from all other teams. Another one of the best parts is that none of us really take ourselves too seriously. This week we are taking a look at how the other members of the new MassMutual NHL East Division feel about the season and the specific situation on their team.
The Boston Bruins with Dan Ryan from Stanley Cup of Chowder
How strong do you think this year’s Bruins team is?
I’d say about as strong as last year’s team, pre-bubble ... aside from question marks on the power play. The Bruins lost Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, yes, but otherwise return all of their big guns. They still should have the best first line in the game (especially now that Brad Marchand has had an injury that has been nagging him for two years fixed) and still have elite goaltending. The addition of Craig Smith should help steady the third line, and we’re all excited to see what Ondrej Kase can do with a full training camp and season with David Krejci. The loss of Krug will be felt most strongly on the power play, where the Bruins will likely look to Matt Grzelcyk to pick up the slack.
How do you think the new division will shake out?
Frankly, I’m glad to see some teams that aren’t Toronto and Montreal. The Bruins will likely be glad to be rid of Tampa, but they’ve struggled with the Capitals for years now. The Flyers gave the Bruins some tough games pre-bubble, and the Penguins still have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. To me, it’ll be a clear race between the Bruins and those three for the top spots in this division. Buffalo and all things New York Metro Area don’t really worry me. Barring disaster, the Bruins should challenge for first place.
Are we in for any surprises with the 2020-21 Bruins? Any new names we should look out for?
The power play could be a wild card, which would be a surprise just because it’ll be different. The Bruins have had one of the league’s best power plays over the past few seasons, but Krug’s departure hurts. The Bruins, and David Pastrnak in particular, were monsters on the power play last season, and it was how they won plenty of their games. If that production dries up without Krug, things shift dramatically for the Bruins.
As far as new names go, I’d say maybe Jack Studnicka, who will likely start the season as 1RW with Pastrnak out, and Jeremy Lauzon. Studnicka is the Bruins’ top prospect and has shown flashes of being very good, and he’ll get a look until Pastrnak is back. Lauzon has been around, but all indications are he’ll be thrust into a first- or second-pairing role this season. He’s fun to watch, a guy who isn’t afraid to throw his body around.
There were a lot of changes for the Bruins this offseason, which one do you think will hurt the most?
Krug is the obvious choice, so I’ll skip him for something more interesting: the combination of Zdeno Chara and Joakim Nordstrom leaving could cause problems for the penalty kill. Last season, the Bruins had the third-best PK in the league. Chara led the Bruins in SH TOI, and Lindholm was 4th in SH TOI among forwards. The gap between Nordstrom and the 5th forward in SH TOI was 24 minutes, which is no small gap. Chara got a lot of flak from segments of Bruins fans (not smart ones), but he was still immense on the PK. Nordstrom was a smart, reliable player. It’ll be interesting to see who eats those minutes.
How are Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk, and Zachary Senyshyn developing?
There’s really not much these guys can do to shake their draft position. Everyone knows who the Bruins could have/should have picked instead. It’s too bad, as it’s not the fault of either of these three players. The funny thing is that Zboril and DeBrusk were drafted in line with their scouting rankings; it’s Senyshyn who was the “off the board” pick, and he’s arguably the most scrutinized.
DeBrusk has been good, serving as David Krejci’s most reliable wing. He’s scored some big goals and plays hard. I don’t think many people have complaints about DeBrusk.
Zboril has just needed all of the time that defense prospects usually need to develop. He hasn’t set the world aflame, but per the P-Bruins’ coach, he was their best defenseman down the stretch last season. He’ll have a legit shot to earn NHL ice time this season, and if he can take it and develop like Brandon Carlo did a few years ago, it’ll ease some of the sting of that draft.
Senyshyn is the wild one. He hasn’t done great in Providence numbers-wise, but has steadily improved to become a more well-rounded player. Of course, you’re not looking for well-rounded at that draft slot, you’re looking for a game-changer. He hasn’t been that. Interestingly, he’s looked fine in his brief NHL stints. He hasn’t looked out of place. So it’ll be up to him to seize a chance if it comes his way. He’s definitely running out of time to prove himself in this organization.
The Flyers and the Bruins have never been in the same division before - how can we really get on your nerves as fans?
I personally have no beef with the Flyers. I grew up a few houses up from Jimmy and Kevin Hayes, playing street hockey with them as kids. Needless to say, they were a little better than me. Still, any Flyers success is ultimately a boost for Dorchester, so I can’t complain. Plus, Kevin is a good kid.
You can try bringing up 2010, but that ship has kind of sailed after a decade (wow, that’s a long time). Memes of Brad Marchand whiffing on that shootout attempt are still pretty funny. The Flyers fans I know on Twitter are pretty funny, and Bruins fans on Twitter are a pretty sensitive bunch. I’m sure you’ll have no trouble getting under their skin.