NHL.com is providing in-depth roster, prospect and fantasy analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the Boston Bruins.
The Boston Bruins will look to make another run at the Stanley Cup with the same core of veterans who led them within one game of winning the championship last season.
[Bruins 31 IN 31: 3 Questions | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
Boston didn't make any splashy offseason moves after losing to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 of the Cup Final last season, content with trusting a group that includes defenseman Zdeno Chara, centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, forward Brad Marchand and goalie Tuukka Rask. Each of them has advanced to the Cup Final three times with the Bruins (2011, 2013, 2019), winning the championship in 2011. The Bruins are again projected contenders thanks to that core combined with forwards David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk, and defensemen Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.
"Hopefully one more step," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said. "That's ultimately what everybody is looking for, another opportunity.
"But we've got some players who've been through some long runs. I would expect our next wave of guys and kids that have come along to have to carry the mantle a little bit here. The other guys will be there, I don't have any consternations as to whether or not they're going to arrive ready to go. It's just the energy levels and mentally, there's a fatigue associated with making long runs. It goes back to 2011 until now."
Those are among the challenges facing the Bruins. Bergeron is 34, Krejci 33, Rask 32 and Marchand 31. The hope is Pastrnak, 23, duplicates or exceeds the 38 goals he scored last season; DeBrusk, 22, becomes a 30-goal scorer after scoring 27 last season; restricted free agents McAvoy, 21, and Carlo, 22, are re-signed; and at least one prospect becomes a legitimate NHL player.
"I think you have to assess your team each and every year," Sweeney said. "You have to stay healthy. You can expect to have a window, and it closes so quickly. You lose a goaltender, or you go through a series of injuries you can't recover from, and what looks like a window shuts pretty quickly."
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It's up to the Bruins to keep pace after several teams in the Atlantic Division bolstered their roster, starting with the Florida Panthers hiring three-time Stanley Cup winning coach Joel Quenneville and signing two-time Vezina Trophy winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. The Buffalo Sabres have a new coach (Ralph Krueger), and the Detroit Red Wings a new general manager (Steve Yzerman). The Tampa Bay Lightning are the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners, and the Toronto Maple Leafs traded for defenseman Tyson Barrie and forward Alexander Kerfoot, determined not to lose to Boston in the Eastern Conference First Round for a third straight season.
"I think our division is difficult, I really do," Sweeney said. "You go in and take anybody lightly on any given night and you're losing. You have to prepare that way, that every night is an uphill challenge."
Forward Marcus Johansson (Sabres) and center Noel Acciari (Panthers), two important role players during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, left as free agents, so newcomers -- including forward Brett Ritchie and center Par Lindholm, and prospects Anders Bjork, Peter Cehlarik, Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka -- will each get a look up front. There's also the expectation versatile forward Danton Heinen will reach a new level after signing a two-year contract as a restricted free agent July 11. He scored 11 goals last season, down from his NHL career-high of 16 in 2017-18.
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How the new generation evolves will help determine the fortunes of the Bruins. How the old guard performs will signal if there's enough left to take that one final step.
"You wonder where the group is going to be coming out of the long run," Sweeney said. "We've got several young players who we think will progress. We've got several people that will challenge."
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