By: Karen Still Follow Me @bluinsfan2017
Happy (Almost) Pre-Season everybody! With training camp beginning in the next few days and the first preseason game on Monday the 18th, most hockey fans are going from counting weeks to days to hours (by the start of camp I expect that to be down to minutes or perhaps even seconds).
Most people around this time of year like to share their perspectives and predictions about their respective teams and the upcoming season. Me? I’ve never done it before, so I thought I’d give it a try.
We’re all familiar with how the quote unquote ‘sophomore slumps’ happen to players going into their 2nd year as a pro, but can fans go through something similar? Well, I think so. However, I can only speak for myself. In fact, I’m confident that my B’s knowledge is not high enough to where I feel comfortable making ‘predictions.’ Instead, I’m going to write about my ‘expectations’, things I hope will happen based on what I learned from last year.
1. The Bruins to make the Playoffs
As to my understanding, this was the predominant goal last year, and it was met. Despite the 1st round exit to the Senators, it could be called a successful season. I would think the goal for our Boys in the B would be to build on that success–1 step forward is always better than 2 steps back after all. I’d like to see them get to the 2nd round (but who wouldn’t), and even if it doesn’t happen, if they make it to the Playoffs, then I’ll be happy as they’ll have built a little more to that 2011 formula. We know this is not an overnight, magical process but like the best wines, it takes time to get it right for perfection.
2. Brad Marchand to get 40 goals
Our Little Ball of Awesome was this close to reaching that milestone, but due to the Rat making an appearance, supported with an award-winning performance by Tampa Bay’s Jake Dotchin, he fell short at 39. Needless to say, that was disappointing as he was in the running for the Rocket Richard, as well as included in Hart Trophy candidacy discussions. In addition to new career highs, he also attended his first All-Star Game alongside Tuukka Rask. These achievements caused for many to finally consider him among the elite, 40 goals would have been the icing on the cake. We can only hope the NHLPS won’t pick on him this year (yet again, he has to make sure to not give them a reason to either).
3. David Backes to get 40 points
With 801 career games played and 498 points (for an average of 1.61 points/game), David Backes still feels like he has something to prove. This has always been part of his character, to adapt to change to make his game better. Not only that but he’s also proven that he can overcome adversity to push himself forward for his teammates. I truly believe that he would have achieved the 40-point marker last season if he hadn’t missed 8 games due to injury (5 games in late Oct/Nov for elbow surgery and 3 in early January for a concussion). I’d look for him to at least reach that give or take 5 points.
4. Patrice Bergeron will be up for his (record-breaking) 5th Selke Trophy
If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that Patrice Bergeron is superhuman. Despite the injury, he still was nominated for (and won) his 4th Frank J. Selke Trophy, joining Hall of Famer Bob Gainey. I really don’t have words when it comes to this man, but I fully expect him to be in the running for this coveted award again. Who knows, if it happens perhaps the NHL will take Marchand up on his brilliant idea:
5. Anton Khudobin to pick up where he left off last season
I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog in general, and even though he had a really bad start to the 2016-17 season, he finished off on a strong note, including a game that had severe playoff implications. It was perhaps a game that served as a turning point in the Bruins’ playoff hopes, and I am sure he knew that better than most. He knew what was on the line and he played his part in getting the much needed 2 points to stay in the playoff race. With it, he had improved his record to 6-5-1 (finishing for the season 7-6-1). He was another player that benefitted from the coaching change with Bruce Cassidy. At the moment, the backup job really isn’t up for grabs, but he has to prove he’s the man to go to. As many other respected writers have said, it is his position to lose, and if he does indeed secure it, then I have no doubt that he’ll have a much better start to this season than last year (provided of course that the defense also does their job, so our goalies don’t have to do all the work).
And there you have it: this is what I think might happen. I am by far no expert, but these are simply based on my observations. I trust the eye (or ear in my case) test more than just simply numbers. I am thinking of revisiting this both at the halfway point of the season and then again at the end, to see just how I did in my expectations.
I am looking forward to this upcoming season as I know many are and if it was anything like last year, it’s going to be quite a wild and wicked ride!