NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams from Nov. 16-Dec. 16. Today, three important questions facing the Boston Bruins.
1. How will the power play fare without Torey Krug?
The Boston Bruins had the second-best power play in the NHL last season (25.2 percent) behind the Edmonton Oilers (29.5 percent). But they’ll enter this season without the quarterback of their top unit after Krug signed with the St. Louis Blues as an unrestricted free agent Oct. 9. The defenseman scored 28 points (two goals, 26 assists) on the power play, tied for second on the Bruins with forward Brad Marchand (five goals, 23 assists); forward David Pastrnak scored 38 (20 goals, 18 assists).
“Do we have a guy to replace Torey, to put up 50 points?” coach Bruce Cassidy said of Krug, who scored 49 points (nine goals, 40 assists) last season. “I’m not going to be naive and say, ‘Oh, automatically we’re going to plug someone in.'”
Matt Grzelcyk is the most likely candidate and could be on the top unit with Marchand, Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Charlie McAvoy is another option in that spot.
2. What can the Bruins expect from Tuukka Rask?
Though there has been speculation about the future of Rask, the goalie and general manager Don Sweeney have emphasized that nothing has changed with his situation and that Rask and Jaroslav Halak each will return to build on a season when they combined to win the William M. Jennings Trophy for Boston allowing the fewest goals in the NHL last season (167).
It’s “full steam ahead” with Rask, Cassidy said last week.
Rask left the Bruins on Aug. 15 because of a medical emergency for one of his daughters while Boston was playing in the Eastern Conference First Round against the Carolina Hurricanes in the hub city of Toronto. Halak started the rest of the Stanley Cup Playoff games, and the Bruins lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the best-of-7 second round.
Rask, voted a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season as the best goalie in the NHL, led the League with a 2.12 goals-against average and was 26-8-6 with a .929 save percentage in 41 games. He was 1-3 with a 2.57 GAA and .904 save percentage in the postseason.
3. What does the longtime core of Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand, Rask and possibly Zdeno Chara have left?
After this season, the Bruins will be 10 years removed from their 2011 Stanley Cup win. They have made the Stanley Cup Final twice since (2013, 2019). In addition to Rask, who is 33 years old, the Bruins have forwards Bergeron, 35; Krejci, 34; and Marchand, 32. But another player remaining from that Cup-winning team, 43-year-old defenseman Chara, the Boston captain, is unsigned.
Do they have enough for the Bruins to make another Cup run?
“I certainly believe they do,” Cassidy said. “Who knows? They might have more than that.
“I feel this core is absolutely capable. A), because I know what they’re made of and they’re very driven athletes, but B), there’s people around them that can support them. It’s not all on their shoulders.”