Inside look at Boston Bruins
NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 32 teams from Aug. 8-Sept. 8. Today, the Boston Bruins.
When Jim Montgomery fills out his first lineup as coach of the Boston Bruins, he will have two familiar names to ease the transition: Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
After hinting all offseason that Bergeron and Krejci would return to Boston, each signed a one-year contract Aug. 8, changing the entire tenor of its offseason and raising the outlook for 2022-23.
That said, returning to the heights that the centers have seen during their time with the Bruins won’t be easy, and there certainly will be differences.
Bruce Cassidy was fired as coach after six seasons, and he was replaced by Jim Montgomery with the hope that he could have better and more positive communication with players and help create more offense.
“That we’re going to compete,” Montgomery said when asked about the trademark of his teams at his introductory press conference July 11. “That we’re going to be a team known for their effort and their execution. I think around the League, I want us to be known as a team that you’d better be prepared [for], or else you’re going to be put on your heels.”
The Bruins are coming off a season in which they topped 100 points, going 51-26-5, but lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference First Round in seven games. Boston president Cam Neely said the belief was the Bruins could have been ticketed for a longer run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Cassidy was fired June 7; Montgomery was hired on July 1.
“This is a 51-win team last year, so I think the staff did a really good job last year,” Montgomery said. “Moving forward, I think there’s areas that [can be improved]. I’m hoping with a new, different style — every coach has a different way of coaching — that it’s going to lead to a little more offense.”
The Bruins averaged 3.09 goals per game last season, 15th in the NHL. But in the playoffs, that number dipped to 2.86 goals per game.
“One of the things that kind of stood out early on was Jim’s philosophy of getting our defensemen to move a little bit more on the offensive blue line,” Neely said. “Whether they end up scoring the goals is going to be one thing, but they can create a little more offense from being fluid on the offensive blue line.”
But the changes weren’t as seismic as they could have been.
Bergeron, the Bruins captain, signed for $2.5 million with $2.5 million in performance-based bonuses; Krejci signed for $1 million with $2 million in performance-based bonuses. They are expected to center the top two lines, as they did for more than a decade in Boston.
Bergeron, who considered retirement, instead will be back for his 19th NHL season. He scored his 400th goal in his final game of the 2021-22 regular season with a hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 28, and had 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists) in 73 games. He won the Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward in the NHL for a record fifth time.
“I hope he feels good about his game still because he had a pretty [darn] good year,” Neely said in May.
Krejci returned after a one-season absence from the NHL, and will be suiting up for his 16th season in Boston. He had 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in 51 games last season with Olomouc in the top professional league in his native Czech Republic.
But even with Bergeron and Krejci in the lineup, the start of the season may not go smoothly for the Bruins. Three key players will begin the season still recovering after offseason surgery. Forward Brad Marchand (both hips) and defenseman Charlie McAvoy (left shoulder) are slated to return in December and defenseman Matt Grzelcyk (right shoulder) is expected back in November.
The best-case scenario is that the Bruins will be able to get a look at some young players, potentially including top forward prospect Fabian Lysell, and Boston won’t fall too far behind until the returns of Grzelcyk, Marchand and McAvoy.
For now, though, the returns of Bergeron and Krejci should serve as a significant piece to getting the Bruins where they want to be, and still think they can be, which is in contention for a long run in the playoffs.