The Boston Bruins have been denied a playoff bid on the final day of the regular season each of the past two years. This frustrating stretch led the brass in Bean Town to make some slight tweaks to the roster in hopes of a return to the postseason party.
The most notable of these moves was adding former Blues captain David Backes up front and parting ways with veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. Backes (21 G, 45 Pts) should provide added punch to an attack that ranked fifth in scoring last season (2.88 GPG), while Seidenberg had slowed and wasn't much help when teamed with captain and All-Star Zdeno Chara on the blue line. It was a big reason why Boston fell from No. 2 in goals allowed in 2014-15 to 19 th last season (2.78 GAA).
Last year's defensive struggles went beyond the blue line, however, as goalie Tuukka Rask also played well below his normal level. A Vezina Trophy finalist in 2013-14, Rask was middling at best last year with 2.56 GAA and .915 save percentage in 70 appearances. A big part of Rask's downturn has been attributed to the heavy workload the past two seasons. This increase in playing time stemmed largely from the lack of a dependable backup the past two years. To try and remedy the problem, Boston re-acquired goalie Anton Khudobin from the Ducks. He previously served as Rask's backup in 2013.
2016-17 Boston Bruins Outlook
The Bruins have three 50-point scorers back from a year ago with the most notable of these being Patrice Bergeron. A three-time Selke Award winner as the best two-way forward in the NHL, Bergeron tallied 32 goals and 36 assists from center last year. He will again be joined on the left wing by another top-notch goal scorer, Brad Marchand (37 G, 24 A). Don't be surprised if Bergeron and Marchand get off to fast starts, as both starred for Team Canada at the recent World Cup of Hockey. It also wouldn't surprise if both finish in the Top 10 in scoring this season, which would be a huge boost for the Bruins.
The scoring power alone isn't likely enough to get Boston to the playoffs. Instead, the season seems to hinge on a return to form of Rask and finding a capable blue-line partner for Chara. Boston has to find away to improve its scoring defense. Another bottom-third finish in that category is likely death blow for the Bruins' playoff chances.
2016-17 Boston Bruins Futures Odds
The Bruins are +2500 to win the Stanley Cup. Boston is the +1200 fifth-choice to win the Eastern Conference and the +650 third-choice to win the Atlantic Division behind the Lightning and Panthers. The Bruins over/under for season points is set at 90.
2016-17 Boston Bruins Schedule
The Bruins open the season with three straight road games. That's the bad news. The good news is all three are winnable as the Blue Jackets (10/13), Maple Leafs (10/15) and Jets (10/17) all finished in last-place of their respective divisions. Boston's home opener is Oct. 20 against the Devils.
Boston Bruins 2016-17 Predictions
A slightly better Bruins team seems in the offing, but a major jump up from the past two seasons would be a surprise. The defense simply has too many question marks to consider Boston a championship-level squad. However, two elite scorers and a potentially-elite goalkeeper makes the Bruins a tough out for most teams. The prediction here is Boston ends its playoff drought and then bounced quickly from the postseason.
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