After the most bizarre year in sports history due to COVID-19, the NBA and NHL were finally allowed to make a return in August. For the Boston Bruins and their fans, this came as amazing news as the Bruins were the best team in the regular season and were favored to win a championship. However, all of those high expectations came tumbling down after the Bruins were eliminated in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Although the Bruins were the best team from September to April, it was pretty clear that something wasn’t quite right with this team when the NHL returned in August. The Bruins lost all three of their round-robin games giving them the fourth seed rather than the first seed. Even though the Bruins looked like they found their stride in the first round after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in five games, they almost looked lost in the second round against the Lightning.
So what went wrong for the Bruins?
It seemed like the Bruins just didn’t have that playoff urgency right off the bat. This was especially displayed by their starting goaltender, Tuukka Rask. After a game two loss to the Hurricanes, Rask decided to leave the bubble after telling the media that "it doesn't really feel like playoff hockey out there. There's no fans so it's kinda like playing an exhibition game." This quote perfectly described how the Bruins were playing up to that point. However, the Bruins ended up amping up their game after Rask left by winning four games in a row. Despite the Bruins hot streak, it was clear that the Bruins needed a goaltender that could steal them some games in the second round, and back up goaltender Jaroslav Halak couldn’t get it done.
Have the Bruins missed their championship window?
If you are asking me if the Bruins can win a championship next year, I would say yes, but it really does depend on how the roster shapes up in the offseason. First and foremost, the goaltender: Will Rask be back next season? Earlier this year, Rask made it known that he is unsure if he will continue playing after his contract is up after this upcoming season. Now, after he left the team after two playoff games for a personal reason, it seems like there could be the possibility he isn’t back for this upcoming season. If he does decide to retire a year early, the Bruins could be in the market for a starting goaltender in free agency, but if they can’t find one, then I say there is little to no chance the Bruins win a title next season.
The next most pressing issue the Bruins will be facing this season is the age of the core leaders on the team. The Bruins top line center, Patrice Bergeron, will be 35 this upcoming season and their second line center, David Krejci will be 34 for this upcoming season. While they both had great seasons this past year, there is no guarantee they will be as good next year as they were this year. It will be up to their younger and faster linemates, like David Pastrnak, Jake DeBrusk, Brad Marchand and Odrej Kase to carry a larger load going forward, especially on the second line with Krejci.
The core of the defense doesn’t look like it will change much: in fact, there is room to grow with players like Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Jeremy Lauzon. If the Bruins can retain Torey Krug and even a 43-year-old Zdeno Chara, the Bruins should go into next season with one of the best defensive cores in the league.
At the end of the day, the biggest question mark the Bruins will face this upcoming season will be goaltending. Will the Bruins get a motivated Rask, or will they have to go on a wild goose chase for a starting goaltender? If Rask does return for potentially his last season, they do have one last chance to win a title with this core of players.