Bruins Season Preview 2016-17: Predictions, Projected Lineup And More


The Boston Bruins enter the 2016-17 season with one main goal: return to the Stanley Cup playoffs after a two-year absence.

In order to achieve that goal, the Bruins must maintain their offensive production from last season — 2.88 goals per game, fifth-best in the league — while playing better team defense and getting improved goaltending.

Here’s our preview for the upcoming Bruins campaign.

What Must Improve
Shot suppression was a problem last season. The B’s gave up 3,900 even-strength shot attempts, the ninth-most in the league. This caused puck-possession to suffer, as their Corsi percentage dipped below 50 percent for the first time in a while. Boston defensemen must exit the defensive zone with better efficiency by making quicker, more accurate passes to evade the oncoming forecheck and prevent being pinned for 45 to 60 seconds at a time.

Tuukka Rask also needs to be better. His save percentage has decreased in each of the last two seasons, and his .915 mark from 2015-16 was the lowest of his career. In fairness, his shots against and quality of shots faced have gone up, but his performance hasn’t been at the elite level we saw in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

Player to Watch
The NHL has become less about physicality and more about speed and skill since the 2004-05 lockout. David Pastrnak is perfectly suited for this type of game because of his quickness and high-end offensive talent.

We could see a breakout campaign from the former first-round pick if he’s healthy. Pastrnak scored at a 24-goal pace last season — his second as a pro — but a broken foot caused him to miss 31 games. The B’s need him to take another step forward in his development to help replace departed forward Loui Eriksson’s scoring production and make the power play effective.

Prospect to Watch 
Danton Heinen might be one of the steals of the 2014 NHL Draft. He’s a versatile forward capable of playing center or wing, and his ability to score goals with a hard, accurate shot is impressive. Heinen will start the season at the pro level, likely in a top-six role as a winger alongside David Krejci.

Heinen set collegiate career highs in goals (20), assists (28) and points (48) as a sophomore for the University of Denver last season. Boston took in the fourth round at 116th overall in 2014.

Projected Lines and Pairings
Patrice Bergeron (lower body), Kevan Miller (fractured hand) and Adam McQuaid (upper body) will miss the season opener. Here’s our projected lineup without these players:

Brad Marchand—Davis Backes—David Pastrnak
Ryan Spooner—David Krejci—Danton Heinen
Matt Beleskey—Austin Czarnik—Jimmy Hayes
Dominic Moore—Riley Nash—Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara–Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug–Rob O’Gara
John-Michael Liles–Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask
Anton Khudobin

Here’s our projected lineup for when Bergeron, Miller and McQuaid all are healthy:

Brad Marchand—Patrice Bergeron—David Pastrnak
Ryan Spooner—David Krejci—Danton Heinen
Matt Beleskey—David Backes—Jimmy Hayes
Dominic Moore—Riley Nash—Noel Acciari

Zdeno Chara–Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug–Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles–Kevan Miller

Tuukka Rask
Anton Khudobin

Season Prediction
Atlantic Division
1. Tampa Bay Lightning*
2. Florida Panthers*
3. Boston Bruins*
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Montreal Canadiens
6. Ottawa Senators
7. Buffalo Sabres
8. Toronto Maple Leafs
*Playoff berth

Earning a playoff spot as a top three team in the Atlantic Division is a realistic goal for the Bruins. The Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings both took steps back in the offseason, and the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres still don’t have the depth or talent level to make the playoffs. The Sabres, though, might come close depending on how well their young, talented players develop.

The B’s finished with 96 points last season — the most ever by any non-playoff team — despite giving up a ton of shots, veteran players underperforming late in the playoff race and getting worse-than-expected goaltending. No major injuries and any defensive improvement should put them in a solid position to be playing postseason hockey.

Click For Our League-Wide NHL Season Preview >>

Thumbnail photo via Tom Szczerbowski/USA TODAY Sports Images

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