(Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images)
The 2018-19 Boston Bruins season starts in less than three weeks, and one could argue that the season has the potential to go any which way — whether it’s an early-round exit or a trip to the Stanley Cup Final. I don’t like to necessarily make predictions for the season as I don’t like getting my hopes up but I do have a feeling that this year’s team could be even better than last year’s. The offseason wasn’t spectacular by any means, but the moves they did make were interesting and bold, which is where these predictions come in. Again, I’m not a huge predictions person but here are some bold claims I could see coming true this season.
David Pastrnak will score at least 40 goals
This first prediction might not be all that crazy as Pastrnak has scored just under 40 goals the last two seasons. Pasta added a bit to his assist total last season going from 36 to 45, but I would think that Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins brass would want him to be shooting the puck more. He’s greatly improved his shot accuracy in recent seasons and saw a slight uptick in power-play goals last season, and they should go up again this season.
Pastrnak should get to 40 goals no matter who he plays with, there’s no doubt he’ll get opportunities playing with either Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci. This season we could see Pastrnak take a big leap and possibly pass Brad Marchand as the team’s top winger.
Charlie McAvoy will lead the Bruins in average time on ice and will eclipse 50 points
This might be my boldest prediction as Zdeno Chara has led the Bruins in ice time essentially since he joined the team. Last year was the first year I can remember that another defender got close to his ice time. Chara logged an average time of 22:54 per game while McAvoy was right behind him with an average time of 22:09 per game. Chara is another year older and clearly does have a lot left, but he might be better off playing a little less during the regular season. Keeping a guy like him fresh could be huge come playoff time.
McAvoy will be the main quarterback of presumably the second power-play unit so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see 50 points out of the former Boston University Terrier. Remember — McAvoy missed nearly 20 games last season with various ailments including a knee injury that sidelined him for the last part of the regular season. Playing in only 63 games, McAvoy put up 32 points his rookie season. There’s a reason he’s drawn comparisons to P.K. Subban, and it’s because of his impressive offensive ability. Expect his numbers to see an uptick both offensively and defensively.
Tuukka Rask will finish in the top 5 of Vezina voting
Rask will be a lot more fresh this season and hopefully will get off to a better start than he had last season. After starting the year 4-8-2, Rask went on a 30-6-3 tear and had that undefeated stretch for more than two months. With a borderline starter in Jaroslav Halak as the backup, he’ll be able to give Rask games off to keep him fresh. Rask finished just outside the top five in Vezina voting last season and with a better start to the season I have no doubt he’ll get into the top five.
Expect Tuukka to play about the same number of games this season but have slightly better numbers in the save percentage and goals against average categories. Looking at the top five in voting for the Vezina last year, I would expect Rask to have a better season than Frederik Anderson and potentially Marc-Andre Fleury, who will be 34 in November. Having another good season out of No. 40 would hopefully silence his many doubters.
David Krejci will score 60 points for the first time in 3 years
Krejci has been a guy who everyone seems to have an opinion on. Both he and Rask draw passionate opinions on social media ranging from very positive to very negative. Both of these players are arguably two of the most important players on the team. The Bruins have been attempting to find a good winger to pair with Krejci — and to be honest they have one already on the roster in David Pastrnak. There’s no doubt that putting the two of them together could result in offensive numbers we haven’t seen from Krejci in a long time.
60 points is certainly not crazy as Krejci has reached it a few times in his career. Contrary to popular belief, Krejci is a guy who can certainly play all 82 games, evidenced by his season in 2016-17. Playing with Jake DeBrusk and whoever else on his right side, Krejci should return to being a rock-solid No. 2 center.
The Bruins will reach at least the Eastern Conference Final
Saved my sweetest prediction for last. A lot can change in a season, players can break out or disappoint, a key player can get injured, and trades can happen. I believe the Bruins have a group that can withstand all the potential issues a season can bring. The B’s still have a solid group of veterans who have been through all the battles in the postseason. This group probably realizes they don’t have a ton of time left together to make a deep playoff run. A lot has to go right for a deep run including clutch goaltending and good special teams play. In my opinion, the Bruins have a deeper group this season, with multiple guys who you can count on.
One of the potential issues last spring was the amount of young players experiencing their first postseason. With a year of experience for guys like Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen, it should help them get used to the rigors of postseason play. The B’s will need to count on a similar amount of young players this season, but they certainly seem up to it. With the playoffs set up the way they are, the Bruins would most likely play Tampa Bay and Toronto again. Toronto obviously added this offseason, but it remains to be seen how deep they are defensively. Tampa Bay is a juggernaut, but they’ve had issues in recent years with big games in the playoffs. The Bruins may not have been flashy this summer, but I believe the moves they made could get them further in the playoffs than the past few years.