By Ethan Nash
With the 2019-2020 NHL season officially in the rearview mirror, it’s time to make some way-too-early predictions for next year’s Boston Bruins.
These last two years share a striking resemblance to the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons. In both 2013 and 2019, the Bruins made incredible runs to the Stanley Cup Final before breaking Boston fans’ collective hearts with two gut-wrenching losses. They then proceeded to win the Presidents’ Trophy in 2014 and 2020 before faltering in the second round each time. Bruins fans will certainly hope the similarities stop right there as no one wants to see a repeat of the 2014-15 season.
Fortunately, it’s hard to imagine the 2020-21 Bruins would suffer the same fate. With most of the core intact – for now – and the younger guys – Charlie McAvoy, Connor Clifton, Anders Bjork, Brandon Carlo and Jack Studnicka to name a few – gaining more experience and improving year-by-year, there is certainly reason for optimism.
To say the Bruins will repeat the level of success they enjoyed during the regular season this past year probably isn’t too realistic. It’s incredibly difficult to win the Presidents’ Trophy and it’s something the Bruins should honestly try to avoid doing as the last team to win the trophy and the Stanley Cup in the same year was the Chicago Blackhawks in the shortened 2012-2013 season.
I do, however, think they will finish in the top three in the Atlantic Division standings. The Tampa Bay Lightning will certainly be right back in the hunt for another Stanley Cup but beyond that who knows? The Toronto Maple Leafs certainly took a step back this year and the Florida Panthers finished fourth in the division with 22 fewer points than the B’s.
I’m generally an optimist with this team. Despite the fact that they break my heart year after year after year, I always think that next season they’ll finally do it again. It wouldn’t be right if 2011 was the only Cup this core won after all they have achieved over the past decade.
That being said, I think history will repeat itself in next year’s playoffs. The Bruins will get matched up against the Lightning in the second round for the third time in four years – even though it should be the fourth time in four years – because of the ridiculous playoff structure, and once again the Lightning will prevail. Whatever roster moves the Bruins make this offseason, I don’t think it will be enough to dethrone the champs.
People like myself can make predictions about this team all they want but the bottom line is that the Bruins need scoring if they want be considered legitimate Cup contenders. They struggled to generate offense in the second round against a talented Lightning squad, resulting in four consecutive losses after a Game 1 win. Beating a team like Tampa is going to be what it takes to win it all. Whether it be an addition of a former Hart Trophy winner in Taylor Hall or the emergence of the 21-year-old Studnicka, the black and gold need guys who can put the puck in the back of the net.