By: Kevin O’Keefe | Follow me on Twitter @Kevin_OKeefe89
The pre-season has concluded, and the Boston Bruins are ready to embark on a season full of uncertainties. In what seems like the first normal NHL season since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many Bruins fans aren’t sure what to expect from the team ahead of their first 82-game season in years. During the Bruins pre-season, fans were able to get a glimpse of the team that many hope will be able to compete for a Stanley Cup this season. With only training camp and pre-season to go off, here is part two of my three bold predictions for the upcoming Bruins season.
Tuukka Rask will not be signed by the Bruins.
Yes, you read that right. Tuukka Rask will not receive a contract with the Bruins this season. The emergence of rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman along with the stable veteran presence of Linus Ullmark, will prove to be more than enough for this team to compete. While Ullmark didn’t look very stable during his pre-season starts, he did show flashes of what you should expect once the rust has been shaken off. Ullmark hasn’t played a regular-season game of hockey since April 13th due to being shut down by injuries. Expect Ullmark to rebound during the regular season.
Swayman has picked up right where he left off last season. With a .932 save percentage and a 1.99 goals-against average through two and a half games played, Swayman’s pre-season has gone as well as you could hope for. He looked dialed in and ready to be a pivotal piece to this Bruins team moving forward this season. In the end, I believe this tandem of Ullmark and Swayman will give general manager Don Sweeney the confidence to move on from Rask. Sweeney has already proved he’s not afraid to move on from players, and I see this being no different if the new goaltending tandem is getting the job done.
Taylor Hall has his second 30-goal season of his career
As surprising as that may be for some who haven’t followed Taylor Hall throughout his career, Hall has only cracked the 30-goal plateau once in his career. In the 2017-2018 season, Hall amassed 39-goals in an MVP season for the New Jersey Devils. The following season, he looked primed to have back-to-back 30-goal seasons before going down with a season-ending injury. Since then, he hasn’t been able to find the back of the net consistently.
There are plenty of factors that have led to his underwhelming goal totals to this point, but his small sample size with the Bruins last season gave a glimmer of hope. Hall scored 8-goals in 16 regular-season games for Boston and added another 3-goals in 11 playoff games. This season, Hall will be given every chance to succeed playing on a promising second line and the top power-play unit.
The most significant factor here will be his time playing alongside Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith. If Coyle can use his heavy puck possession to draw opponents out of position, it could allow a crafty player like Hall to find himself in prime positions to score. Being the net-front guy on the first power-play should allow Hall plenty of chances to put the puck in the net. Having Elite talent in Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, and McAvoy to work with, there is no doubt Hall is going to capitalize on a lot of scoring chances with the top unit.
Jack Studnicka won’t stick in the Bruins lineup this season
One of the most exciting stories to come out of pre-season was the emergence of Bruins center Jack Studnicka. With the added muscle and poise he showed throughout camp, many Bruins fans thought he would be a guarantee to take over that second-line center position. Unfortunately for them and Studnicka, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The finalized roster doesn’t have Studnicka penciled into the lineup or as an extra forward. The 24-year-old center will be slotting into Providence’s lineup to start the year. This is the right move as Don Sweeney was able to bring in pieces to sure up the center depth going into the season. Studnicka isn’t a fourth liner, so it’s best he gets top-line minutes at the AHL level.
I don’t believe that Studnicka will be able to take a 2nd or 3rd line job from Haula or Coyle, so this may be a year where Studnicka is used as an NHL-ready call-up throughout the season. Of course, there is the chance a season-ending injury could happen, and in that case, there’s a possibility Studnicka could be the guy who fills the role in the middle-six, but this prediction is based on Coyle and Haula playing to their capabilities and not having a season-ending injury.