It’s time to turn the page on 2021 and look toward 2022. NESN.com has you covered this week by rolling out several pieces of review/preview content ahead of the new year. Next up: Bruins predictions.
The Boston Bruins enter 2022 with a 14-10-2 record after a slow start to the 2021-22 season.
With a new year just days away, the Bruins likely are looking forward to resuming games and getting back on track.
The B’s, like much of the NHL, have COVID-19 running through their team on top of dealing with injuries and not having a fully healthy squad. But with everyone getting some extended time off and no longer having to prepare for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, the Bruins could return in 2022 healthier than they’ve been all season.
So, here are five 2022 predictions for the Bruins:
1. Tuukka Rask returns
There’s been plenty of questions surrounding Rask and his potential return to the Bruins since undergoing offseason hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. The veteran goalie is an unrestricted free agent, but has made it clear he wants to remain with the B’s. General manager Don Sweeney has said time and time again the door is open for Rask, and said he likely will be “part of the group” once Rask feels ready to return.
The 33-year-old has been practicing at Warrior Ice Arena, but there have been no talks of a contract just yet. The recent NHL shutdown due to COVID-19 has set that back a little bit due to facilities being closed. But the B’s and Rask returned to practice this week.
While the goaltending isn’t the biggest concern the Bruins have faced so far, it hasn’t been anything spectacular. And even though the tandem of Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark has played better of late, it couldn’t hurt bringing in someone who has familiarity with the organization and can steal you games.
2. Bruins trade for a defenseman
The need for a blueliner became increasingly more glaring after Jakub Zboril, who became a mainstay in the lineup after pushing others out, underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL. He’ll miss the rest of the season, which is a big blow to Boston considering Zboril was playing some of his best hockey.
But the blue line struggled well before Zboril’s injury. Derek Forbort has been bounced around from pairing to pairing all season and hasn’t exactly found where he fits best yet. There isn’t a whole lot of depth on defense, and the Bruins likely will have John Moore or Jack Ahcan in the lineup for the foreseeable future. The same goes for Connor Clifton, who was getting healthy scratched frequently.
All told, the only real consistencies on defense are Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzelcyk, and that won’t be sustainable if the Bruins want to make a playoff run.
3. David Pastrnak returns to form
He can’t stay in a rut forever. Pastrnak certainly hasn’t looked like his normal self this season and has continually hit the post with what seems like nearly every shot he’s taken. Pastrnak isn’t far removed from scoring 48 goals in a campaign, and he likely would have amassed at least 50 had the 2019-20 season not been cut short due to COVID-19. Some extra time off, coupled with time with his family may end up being exactly what Pastrnak needs to start lighting the lamp on a consistent basis.
4. As does Craig Smith
Smith, like Pastrnak, hasn’t shown what he’s capable of this season. He hasn’t had the best luck health-wise between injuries and COVID-19. Smith also has a new center on the second line in Charlie Coyle and has been between the second and third lines. It could be as simple as a couple extra days off, or finding that chemistry with his linemates to bring Smith back to the puck sniper he is.
5. The Bruins make the playoffs
At some point things have to start clicking for Boston. It was rough start to the season with weird scheduling and lengthy periods of time off while other teams continued to play. But the Bruins certainly are due. Whether it’s them making a splash at the trade deadline or making a few tweaks to the roster, it’s only a matter of time before they go on a run.