With so many questions going into the 2021-2022 season for the Boston Bruins, there's bound to be surprising performances by players on the current roster.
New line combinations, defense pairings, and a new goaltending tandem create unlimited possibilities — some good and some bad.
While uncertainty looms widely with this team, here are five bold predictions (plus one bonus off-season prediction) for things that will happen for the Bruins this season.
Jake DeBrusk will score 25+ goals
No doubt at least half of the people reading this just rolled their eyes when they saw this prediction. But before dismissing this prediction, consider the following:
Last year, DeBrusk had little to no puck luck. He scored on a career-worst 5.4% of the shots he took, scoring just 5 times in 41 games.
If DeBrusk's shooting percentage is anywhere near his career 12.1%, he scores at least 10 goals in 41 games, putting him on pace for 20 goals over a full season. DeBrusk’s shooting percentage will level out next season.
Based on the roster around him, DeBrusk is slated to play his natural position (left wing) for the entire season.
With Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall occupying the left wings on lines one and two, and the right wings seemingly set as well, the 3LW position is DeBrusk’s spot to lose.
Anyone who’s watched DeBrusk over the last few years has noticed that when being forced to play his off-wing, he has not been as effective. Combine that with not having a consistent line to play on, and the reasons for not scoring last year become more apparent.
Given that DeBrusk will most likely play on the 3rd line, the quality of opposition he faces on a nightly basis could also be weaker than he is accustomed to, which only improves his chances of rebounding in 2022.
A final note that may lead to greater success for DeBrusk is that Erik Haula will most likely center him to begin the year.
Now, no one is going to argue that Haula is a better player than David Krejci; however, Haula excels in one area that Krejci does not: skating.
Up until this coming season, DeBrusk has not played with center that can keep up with him stride for stride. Haula has excellent wheels, and should have no problem pushing the play with DeBrusk.
Nick Foligno plays less than 60 games in the regular season
While adding Foligno’s leadership presence to the Bruins’ locker room can only help, Foligno’s presence on the ice next season could be limited.
The rugged winger will turn 34 years old this October, and his style of play over his 14-year career could be catching up with him.
Over his last 4 seasons, Foligno has missed 40 games, in addition to the 3 games he missed last post-season with the Leafs due to what he called a “debilitating” back injury.
Given Foligno’s age, style of play, and history of missing games, expect Foligno to at some point miss games this season.
Hopefully more than 20 won’t happen, but don’t bet against it.
The Bruins would be wise to consider a load-management approach to Foligno’s season, to ensure that he can make a difference when the games matter most.
The first line gets broken up, and stays broken up
While they’re together next season, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak will form one of the best lines in the NHL.
The problem is, while they’re together the bulk of the Bruins’ offense will come from one line.
In an effort to create a more balanced attack, the Bruins will split up their top line for good in 2021-2022.
While we’ve yet to see the line of Taylor Hall, Charlie Coyle, and Craig Smith play together, we do know the offensive style of play each brings to the table.
Coyle, as frustrating as it is to watch sometimes, is a pass-first player. He’s also not as good of a playmaker as Krejci was either.
Hall, despite his highlight goals last season, also has a tendency to think pass first as well, leaving Smith to be the one pulling the trigger on that line.
And while Smith seemingly loves to shoot the puck, if the Bruins want the 2nd line to produce regularly, they need someone who hits the back of the net more often.
While not a popular decision with fans, the Bruins will split up their top line at some point next season.
Tuukka Rask does not return to the Bruins this season
Despite Rask wanting to come back in 2021-2022 to play for the Bruins, at a seemingly very low price, Rask will not play for Boston this upcoming season.
The reason: Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark are going to have excellent seasons in net for Boston. No matter who takes the number one spot in Boston, you can expect the Bruins to be very stingy in the goals-against column.
We saw what Swayman can do in net last season (1.50 GAA, .945 SV%), albeit in a limited capacity, and the fact the Ullmark has a career .912 SV% even though he played for the Sabres points to the fact the Bruins will be strong in net this upcoming season.
In addition, every dollar will count for the Bruins if they want to upgrade their lineup via trade in 2021-2022.
Although Rask could play for the league minimum, it makes little sense for the Bruins to add the extra cap if their other two goalies are playing well.
Don’t be surprised though if Rask plays in the NHL next season for another team.
The Bruins finish 4th in the Atlantic (just beating out the Sens for the last playoff spot).
The Bruins were in a good division last season during the pandemic, and they’ll be in an even better one this season. Since Boston last faced its Atlantic division foes, the Lightning won another Stanley Cup, the Leafs won a division title, the Panthers had one of their best regular seasons in franchise history, the Habs were in the Final, and the Senators took some big steps forward toward becoming a playoff contender.
Boston is in for a tough haul next season, and although they will qualify for the playoffs, they’ll finish 4th in the Atlantic. The Bruins are still a better team than Montreal, Ottawa, Detroit, and Buffalo and should win the bulk of the games against these teams.
The other three teams, however, will present a more formidable challenge for Boston, especially if the Bruins struggle to generate offense.
The Lightning, the Panthers, and the Leafs all score lots of goals, and while Boston is great at keeping the puck out, at times they’ll need to put up 4+ goals to win games against these three teams.
Bonus Prediction: Bergeron signs a one-year deal to return to Boston in the off-season
Despite rumors of Bergeron saying goodbye to the NHL at the end of this season, Bergeron will sign a one-year deal in the off-season to play in the 2022-2023 season with the Bruins.
It will be a team-friendly deal, one that frees up important cap space.
Get your tissues out that season though, as it will be Bergeron’s last season in the NHL.
Let’s face it: making predictions is random guess-work at best.
Some things that seem certain to happen don’t happen, while the improbable surprises us each season.
What are your thoughts on these predictions? Do you have any of your own for the Bruins 2021-2022 season?