By Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me On Twitter @adbblue
With training camp underway and puck-drop to start the season being right around the corner, many questions linger about the expectations of the 2023-24 Boston Bruins. After coming off the greatest regular season a team has had in NHL history, things will undoubtedly look a lot different this year.
It is almost clear that the Bruins won’t repeat what they did last season or even come near it. But there are still core group players with the team, and they should remain ambitious. So, what are the realistic expectations for this version of the Boston Bruins?
With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retiring and Tyler Bertuzzi, Dimitry Orlov, Connor Clifton, Tomas Nosek, and Garnet Hathaway leaving via free agency, there are a lot of new faces in Boston. It should also be noted that Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno were dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks. New acquisitions include forwards James Van Riemsdyk, Morgan Geekie, Jesper Boqvist, Patrick Brown, and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, among others. And, of course, old friend Milan Lucic.
With this group of players, it is undetermined what the lines will look like on opening night and throughout the season, yet it should still make the Bruins a competitive hockey team. The question is, how competitive? With the Eastern Conference having a lot of talented teams, including in the Atlantic Division, the Bruins need to get off to a good start. If they get behind the eight ball out of the gate, it’ll be difficult to climb back into the fold.
Two key things the Bruins have going for them that should still make them competitive are their defensive unit and goaltending. With Charlie McAvoy, Hampus Lindholm, and Brandon Carlo as their three best defensemen, they still have one of the strongest blue lines in the Eastern Conference. In Addition, Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman are arguably the best goaltending tandem in the league. They’re coming off winning the Jennings Trophy, allowing the least amount of goals during the 2022-23 season. Ullmark is also coming off his first career Vezina Trophy.
Furthermore, both special teams units should also fare well with the coaching and personnel they have on the roster. The power-play will still have returning highly skilled players and new additions such as Van Riemsdyk and Shattenkirk, who will likely be in the mix. The penalty kill will definitely take a hit without the services of Bergeron. Still, the organization has always emphasized having a strong PK, and head coach Jim Montgomery should be on top of that along with the rest of his staff.
However, realistically, the Bruins are a wildcard team at best. They could maybe sneak in as the third seed in the Atlantic division if they exceed expectations and get help from other factors, such as injuries. But, if they can tread water for long enough and get to the trade deadline while still in the hunt, anything could happen. The only problem is that the organization has limited assets to use for a big trade, so they need some of the younger players to emerge. Regardless, it should be a very interesting 2023-24 campaign, and fans should be cautiously optimistic.