There’s no mistaking the disappointment that the Bruins and their fans felt after losing to the New York Islanders in the second round of the playoffs.
The Bruins, particularly at the end of the regular season, looked like a team destined for a deep playoff run, and possibly another Stanley Cup.
But as we all know, this did not happen for a myriad of reasons.
However, as tumultuous of a year as 2021 was, it wasn’t all bad for the Boston Bruins.
In fact, when you look back on the 2021 season, there certainly were a lot of individual highlights that should be celebrated by Bruins fans.
In addition, there are also some bright spots to look forward to in the near future.
For example, let’s start with the captain, Patrice Bergeron.
After 14 great years of captaincy by the departed Zdeno Chara, Bergeron became the 20th captain in Bruins history.
With big shoes to fill, Bergeron’s leadership helped an often injury depleted team earn it’s fifth consecutive playoff birth and a first-round victory over the Washington Capitals.
Bergeron’s excellent play this season also earned him a record 10th nomination for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defensive forward.
In addition, 2021 also saw Bergeron move into fourth on the Boston Bruins’ all-time scoring list with 917 total points (375 goals and 542 assists), behind only Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk, and Phil Esposito (some pretty legendary company).
Bergeron’s wingman, Brad Marchand, also had a great year individually.
Finishing 3rd in league scoring with 29 goals and 40 assists in just 53 games, Marchand deserved a legitimate look as MVP, according to many fans.
While he was not selected as one of the top three candidates for the Hart Trophy, Marchand was given two in-house awards: the Eddie Shore Award for exceptional hustle and determination and the Elizabeth Dufresne Trophy as the Bruins’ best home-ice performer.
Marchand also scored his 300th goal on February 26th against the Rangers.
Plus, while it didn’t end well, who can forget this goal from #63?
2021 saw David Krejci reach a couple of career milestones as well.
On March 18, Krejci recorded his 700th career point (only the 9th Bruin ever to reach this milestone); then on April 3rd, Krejci registered his 500th assist, making him the 7th Bruin to accomplish this feat.
2021 was also a good year for Nick Ritchie as well.
Pretty much every Bruins fan was ready to write off Ritchie following a disastrous 2020 playoff performance, but to Ritchie’s credit, he rebounded with a career best 15 goals, and likely would have crushed his career best point total had the Bruins played a full season.
All this was good enough to earn Ritchie NESN’s 7th Player Award as the player who most performed beyond expectations.
On the back-end, Charlie McAvoy undisputedly established himself as the Bruins’ cornerstone on defense.
Playing outside of Chara’s shadow for the first time, McAvoy excelled all season and playoffs long, often shutting down opponents’ top lines and playing a major role in the Bruins’ excellent penalty kill.
Statistically, McAvoy’s offensive pace (5 goals, 25 assists in 53 games) would have resulted in career bests had he played a full 82 games this year.
In the playoffs, McAvoy put up even better numbers (12 points in 11 games), which only serves as a reminder that McAvoy is just 23 years old and has the potential to become even better in seasons to come.
In net, the end of the season for Tuukka Rask was certainly a low point for the star goalie; however, 2021 also cemented Rask as one of the team’s all-time greats.
Rask won his 300th game on April 15th, and his Game 4 victory over the Washington Capitals gave him the record for most playoff wins by a Bruins goalie.
And don’t forget he also made this stupid save:
While it’s still very early, 2021 may also be remembered as the year Rask’s heir-apparent emerged in 22 year-old Jeremy Swayman.
Though we’ve only got a small sample size to work with, in ten regular season games, Swayman put up a ridiculous .945 SV% to go along with a GAA of 1.50.
It would be foolish to assume that Swayman could continue to put up these numbers long term or that he’s a sure bet to replace Rask, but the future looks bright in net with him and Daniel Vladar waiting in the wings
Some other individual accomplishments to note include:
- David Pastrnak becoming the fastest Bruin to score 200 goals (437 games). He also recorded his 200th assist and played in his 400th game in 2021.
- Charlie Coyle recorded his 300th career point...please score many more next year though, Charlie.
- Taylor Hall found his game after leaving the Sabres, putting up 14 points in 16 regular season games as a Bruin.
As stated at the top of this article, the 2021 season did not turn out the way the Bruins and their fans would have liked.
But hey, let’s have some perspective: 30 of the 31 teams suffer a similar fate each year, some earlier than others.
And while it’s easy to be depressed about how it all ended, Bruins fans have a pretty exciting team to watch most nights, and a whole host of stars to cheer for.
If all of this didn’t make you feel better about the Bruins season that was...you can always be thankful that you’re not a Sabres fan.