The Tampa Bay Lightning are now members of the Atlantic Division, with new rivals and of course some old ones. Today Hockey Independent‘s Benjamin Woodward helps preview the Boston Bruins.
2013: 28-14-6. 4th in East.
CURRENT SALARIES: $70,483,810 (see full breakdown at capgeek.com)
DEPARTURES: Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr, Kaspars Daugavins, Jay Pandolfo, Andrew Ference, Wade Redden, Anton Khudobin.
ARRIVALS: Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson, Chad Johnson.
FORWARDS: Here is a brief look at the year ahead for every forward on the Bruins’ roster, courtesy of Benjamin Woodward.
11 Gregory Campbell — 10 goals, 10 assists
– The incredible depth and versatility that Gregory Campbell brings to the Boston lineup was never more apparent than in last summer’s Stanley Cup Final, in which the Bruins’ fourth line became a shell of its former self, once No. 11 went down with an injury. This year, one would expect that Campbell will be reunited with Shawn Thornton and Daniel Paille on one of the Eastern Conference’s premiere fourth-line units.
12 Jarome Iginla — 33 goals, 24 assists
– Lost in all the hoopla of last year’s trade deadline drama surrounding Iginla, the Bruins, and the Penguins is the fact that Boston’s north-south, physical brand of hockey fits the playing style of the former Calgary captain a lot better than Pittsburgh’s skill-based offensive attack. With the Bruins, Iginla will also have the ability to move over from the left side, where he primarily played in Pittsburgh, to his natural position of right wing. With Lucic creating space for he and David Krejci on Boston’s top-line, expect a rejuvenated Iginla to easily surpass the 25-goal mark this season.
17 Milan Lucic — 25 goals, 31 assists
– After struggling through most of last year’s lockout-shortened regular season, Lucic took his game to another level in the postseason, leading the charge in Boston’s miraculous Game 7 comeback against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Throughout the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup Final, No. 17 was one of the team’s biggest offensive difference-makers, scoring timely goals and consistently setting the tone of the game with toughness and physicality.
18 Reilly Smith — 14 goals, 17 assists
– One of the more interesting storylines to follow during this year’s preseason will be whether or not first-year Bruin Reilly Smith can overtake Jordan Caron in the battle for Boston’s open spot at third-line right wing. The former Dallas Stars’ draft choice could be considered undersized (5-foot-11, 185 pounds), but he’s got a great wrist shot and isn’t afraid to mix it up and get to the dirty areas in front of the net.
20 Daniel Paille — 12 goals, 6 assists
– Following a career-year during the regular season (10 goals, 7 assists in 46 games played), Daniel Paille was one of Boston’s most valuable players throughout their playoff run last spring. No. 20 continued to log valuable penalty-kill minutes and even came through with a pair of timely goals against the Blackhawks in the Final.
21 Loui Eriksson — 24 goals, 40 assists
– After spending the first seven years of his career in the Dallas organization, Loui Eriksson comes to Boston as the biggest prize of a major offseason right-wing overhaul. Likely to be paired with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the defensively-sound winger will add another element of speed and skill on Boston’s dynamic second line. What will be most interesting to watch is how Eriksson handles the increased pressure that comes with playing for a winning franchise in a hockey-mad city like Boston, after playing for a team in Dallas that’s missed the playoffs for five consecutive seasons.
22 Shawn Thornton — 4 goals, 5 assists
– Likely heading down the stretch run of his career, Boston’s incumbent enforcer will be back for the final year of his current contract with the Black and Gold. In the wake of Andrew Ference’s offseason departure, Thornton could be in line to fill the void as one of the team’s alternate captains.
23 Chris Kelly — 8 goals, 10 assists
– Boston’s $3-million dollar third line center struggled throughout most of last season, including a 3-month stretch from March 10 to June 15 in which he scored just one goal in 29 games. This lack of production was enough to cause Kelly’s name to be brought up in trade rumors this summer during the Bruins’ flurry of offseason activity. However, a strong finish in the Final was enough to buy Kelly at least one more year to prove he can get back to being the player who scored 20 goals and added 19 assists for the Black and Gold in 2011-12.
34 Carl Soderberg — 15 goals, 25 assists
– After seeing action in just eight games (six regular season contests, and two in the Stanley Cup Final) with the Black and Gold, Soderberg must have made a great initial impression with the Boston brass. With Rich Peverley sent to Dallas in the offseason and no other veterans brought into the fold, Soderberg will be heavily relied upon for secondary scoring on the Bruins’ third line.
37 Patrice Bergeron — 21 goals, 44 assists
– The perfect model of consistency, Bergeron has missed just nine games over the last three seasons, combined. With his early-career concussion issues now clearly in the past, the rest of the league is finally starting to recognize Bergeron as one of the truly elite players in the game today; something fans in Boston have known for years.
38 Jordan Caron — 7 goals, 11 assists
– Boston’s much-maligned former first round draft choice has spent the better part of his first three years as a pro skating in the AHL. Now, some players certainly take a little longer to develop than others, but the fact that he was overlooked in favor of a 38-year-old, soon-to-be-retired Jay Pandolfo as Patrice Bergeron’s potential injury replacement in Game 6 of the Final tells you a lot about Boston’s confidence in Caron.
46 David Krejci — 19 goals, 46 assists
– Without question the most dynamically skilled and offensively gifted forward on the Boston roster, David Krejci was once again one of the Bruins’ most consistent performers last season. With veteran sniper Jarome Iginla now skating alongside, I’d expect a breakout season from Boston’s top-line pivot.
63 Brad Marchand — 31 goals, 26 assists
– Despite not skating overseas during the lockout, Marchand came out guns-a-blazing at the start of last season, picking up points in four of his first five games. Finishing the year with 18 goals and 18 assists, Marchand was the Bruins’ leading scorer for the first time in his career. This year, with a more defensive-oriented linemate on the right side, in former Dallas Star Loui Eriksson, expect No. 63 to have even more freedom to make plays in the offensive zone.
Points Leader: David Krejci/Patrice Bergeron (65 points)
Leading Goal Scorer: Jarome Iginla (33 goals)
DEFENSEMEN: Many have quietly whispered that Zdeno Chara is slowing down, but the big man is still a force to be reckoned with. Chara had seven goals and 12 assists in 48 games last season and netted three goals and 15 points in 22 playoff contests. The 36 year old Slovakian averaged 29 minutes of ice time in the playoffs.
Led by their captain, the Bruins had the third rated defense in 2013 and held Sidney Crosby and the star studded Penguins offense to just two goals during their playoff sweep.
Dennis Seidenberg (Four goals, 13 assists) will again pair with Chara, while Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid will make up the second defensive pairing.
Young and talented, Joe Morrow, Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton make up the rest of the Bruins back end.
GOALIES: Tuukka Rask was re-signed to an eight-year, $56 million contract after proving he could be a number one. Rask went 19-10-5 with a 2.00 GAA and five shutouts in 36 games last year. He then went on and lowered his GAA to 1.88 in 22 playoff games. Expect Rask to start 65 games in 2013-14.
It was a surprise to see Boston allow backup Anton Khudobin to sign with the Hurricanes. He performed well in 2013 going 9-4-1 with a 2.32 GAA. Chad Johnson is now the backup and will see little action.
If Johnson can’t handle back up duties, the Bruins might use prospect Niklas Svedberg to give Rask a day off. Johnson has played in only ten NHL games over his career, including four starts with the Coyotes in 2013.
SCHEDULE VERSUS LIGHTNING: @Boston October 3, @Tampa Bay October 19, @Boston November 11, @Tampa Bay March 8.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeosY-_XZKg]
Benjamin Woodward is a featured writer, covering the Boston Bruins for Hockey Independent. He is the Managing Editor for Boston Sports Today and has written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston.
Follow Benjamin on Twitter @_BWoodward and please “like” LightningShout on Facebook. You can email us at [email protected].