Boston Bruins 2022-23 Season Preview

The Bruins’ offseason had two distinct phases. The first saw the effects of the playoffs play out, as numerous injuries were announced that will certainly impact the start of this upcoming season. Forward Brad Marchand (hip), and defenders Charlie McAvoy (shoulder) and Matt Grzelcyk (shoulder) are all expected to miss the first month or two of the season. Because of this, the lineup for opening night could look shockingly bad for Boston. A new man will be in charge of that lineup, as the surprise firing of Bruce Cassidy led to former Stars coach Jim Montgomery taking over.

The fans were allowed to have some fun in the second half, as the Bruins announced that they were getting the gang back together. Patrice Bergeron officially returned on a one-year deal. The team was also able to bring back David Krejci to the NHL after he returned home to the Czech Republic for a year.

Offseason additions: F David Krejci, F Pavel Zacha, F Vinni Lettieri.

Offseason subtractions: F Erik Haula, F Curtis Lazar, F Anton Blidh, D Josh Brown.

Forwards

The Bruins still look like a playoff team, but if the season gets out of control, then they would be perfect sellers at the deadline, with eight forward on the final year of their contract. Bergeron and Krejci are two of them, and it would be hard to see them open to leaving. Even entering his age-37 season, Bergeron is still an elite top-line center. He won his fifth Selke Trophy in 2021-22. The Bruins led the league in xGF% last year, eclipsing 57 percent (per Evolving-Hockey). While only one one their semi-regular players was under 50% last year (Anton Blidh), Bergeron is a massive part of the team’s control of play. His 69.6 xGF% was not on the NHL’s best last year, but also in the entire puck tracking era (since 2007-08). The only other player with over 500 TOI and a xGF% over 65 was Marchand, also last season. Marchand will be a huge loss for October and November. He had 80 points in 70 games last year, and is undoubtedly a top three winger in the game. The duo of Marchand and Bergeron had a ton of success when playing alongside Jake DeBrusk, as well as with Craig Smith. Both of them could flank Bergeron to start. DeBrusk rescinded his long-withstanding trade request this offseason after he scored 25 goals in 77 games. Smith has 68 points in 128 games over two seasons in Boston while moving up-and-down through the top-nine.

Boston has not extended David Pastrnak yet, creating buzz for his contract year. Pastrnak was split up from Bergeron and Marchand for the most part and scored 40 goals for the second time. He has averaged over a point-per-game in every season since 2017-18, when he had 80 points in 82 games. The most commonly used line last season consisted of Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, and Erik Haula on the second line. Montgomery could change things up, especially with Haula now on the Devils. During Krejci’s first stint with the Bruins, the team consistently failed to acquire him solid wingers, and Hall and Pastrnak are first liners on the second line. In his first full season with Boston, Hall scored 20 goals with 41 assists. Sure, it is nowhere near his Hart Trophy-winning season of 2017-18, but he was exactly what the Bruins needed. Only Pastrnak and Marchand were on the ice for more 5v5 goals for per 60 than Hall. The hope is that Krejci can be a great second line center again, but you have to expect an adjustment period. When we last saw him in the NHL, he scored just eight goals in 51 games, but also had 36 assists. In the same amount of games in the Czech league in 2021-22, he scored 20 goals with 26 assists.

In exchange for Haula, GM Don Sweeney brought home Pavel Zacha, who can play both left wing and center. Drafted sixth overall in the same 2015 that the Bruins infamously messed up, Zacha broke out with 17 goals in the shortened 2020-21 season. He did set a career-high in points last year, but it was only by one point in 20 extra games. He was fifth on New Jersey in expected goals for percentage. Boston extended Charlie Coyle after acquiring him at the 2018-19 deadline, although that contract has aged poorly. The only forward signed for 2025-26 season, Coyle was last on the team in shots against per 60 and expected goals against per 60. His production bounced back last season, scoring 16 goals with 44 points. The Bruins need something out of Nick Foligno this season. The former Blue Jackets captain signed a contract with a $3.8 million AAV last year and scored just twice with 11 assists in 64 games. The silver lining is that his expected goals for was in line with Haula and Smith, and Foligno had an incredibly unlucky on-ice shooting percentage of 3.67%.

The depth of the Bruins needed a revamping badly two years ago. Now, they could have two young wingers and an outsourced center on the fourth-line. Tomas Nosek had 17 points in his first season in Massachusetts. He’s a good shot suppressor, although not much offense comes with him. In his first full season, former first-rounder Trent Frederic scored eight goals with 10 assists in 60 games. His value comes with his physicality, as Frederic fought five times with 119 hits in 2021-22. The last spot is open to competition. Oskar Steen scored twice with four assists in a 20-game rookie season. Chris Wagner was a key member of the fourth-line in the past, but spent most of last year in the AHL. He played in one NHL game plus three more in the playoffs. Boston College’s Marc McLaughlin went straight to the NHL, scoring three goals in 11 games.

Defensemen

The absence of McAvoy and Grzelcyk to start will be felt. Of pairs that played over 50 minutes together, they had the best xGF%, while playing over 400 minutes. They were one and two in the league in xGF% for defensemen and xGA/60. The Bruins will be missing their entire top pair for over a month. Most teams would not be able to recover from that. Can the Bruins?

However, the team did split up the pair after the trade deadline, when they acquired Hampus Lindholm from Anaheim. Lindholm had regressed in recent seasons, but it didn’t stop the Bruins from trading a first-round pick and more assets, extending Lindholm for eight seasons, and playing him with McAvoy. Lindholm had five assists in 10 games after the trade, but none in four playoff games. Without McAvoy, the Bruins have a need for a right-handed defender. The only one capable of playing on the top pair is Brandon Carlo, who is really a second-pairing guy at best. Carlo was one of seven regular Bruins with a GF% under 50, although a PDO lower than 100 did play into that.

Another injured Bruin defender is Mike Reilly, although he is not expected to miss as much time. Reilly as an offensively-minded defender who unfairly catches the ire of Bruins fans. He was tied for Grzelcyk for second on the defensive core in expected goals for per 60, and third in xGA/60. Connor Clifton is the most likely to see a promotion from last year, when he only averaged roughly 16 minutes of ice time per game. He blocked 62 shots with 156 hits in 60 games.

The bottom pair is not a good one, but it will eventually be a solid extra pair when reinforcements come. Derek Forbort was last in xGF% and xGF/60. Only Coyle had a worse xGA/60 on the team. In all five of his full NHL seasons, Forbort has reached triple digits in blocked shots. Jakub Zboril had three assists in 10 games before tearing his ACL. He looked impressive before the injury, with a 67 xGF%. Other options include Jack Ahcan, who played in six NHL games last year, and Connor Carrick, who has suited up for 241 NHL games for four different teams. He had 32 points in 59 AHL games last season.

Goaltending

The Bruins executed a perfect split in net last year, aside from Tuukka Rask’s short comeback that failed. Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark had extremely similar numbers, but both had negative goals saved above expected. Swayman had a 2.41 GAA and a .914 save percentage in 41 games, while Ullmark had a 2.45 GAA and a .917 save percentage, also in 41 games. There isn’t a true starter here, although Swayman took the job in the playoffs and was much better, with a .911 save percentage in five games.

Projected Lines

Jake DeBrusk – Patrice Bergeron – Craig Smith

Taylor Hall – David Krejci – David Pastrnak

Pavel Zacha – Charlie Coyle – Nick Foligno

Trent Frederic – Tomas Nosek – Oskar Steen

Scratched: Chris Wagner, Marc McLaughlin

Hampus Lindholm – Brandon Carlo

Mike Reilly – Connor Clifton

Derek Forbort – Jakub Zboril

Scratched: Connor Carrick

Linus Ullmark

Jeremy Swayman

Published by carterhud

Carterhud.com. SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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