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The Mass Media

Don’t poke the bear: Bruins fans have nothing to worry about

Illustration+of+Bruins%E2%80%99+right+winger+Trent+Frederic.+Illustration+by+Bianca+Oppedisano+%2F+Mass+Media+Staff.
Bianca Oppedisano
Illustration of Bruins’ right winger Trent Frederic. Illustration by Bianca Oppedisano / Mass Media Staff.

They’ve been around for a century now and yet they still manage to find new ways to break the hearts of fans. The Boston Bruins are back for their centennial season, and as much as people hope they’ll be just a fraction of how impeccable they were last year in the regular season, do they really have the star-studded talent to avenge themselves for their disastrous end to year ’99? Surely, the hockey gods will be on Boston’s side this year, right? There’s a lot to unpack since their game seven choke job against the Florida Panthers, and the sheer unpredictability of anticipating what this roster is capable of after who they’ve lost and gained may be more anxiety-inducing than watching last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

The B’s went all in during their 2022 campaign in an attempt to secure an even better shot at winning the Stanley Cup; former Detroit Red Wings’ star forward, Tyler Bertuzzi, was the most notable name acquired alongside reliable defenseman, Dimitry Orlov, and hometown enforcer, Garnet Hathaway. Their additions to the team provided more depth to a franchise that, on paper, already seemed like it had a talent pool deeper than the Mariana Trench. However, in the long run, the biggest takeaway from the Bruins’ gamble is that they put all their eggs in one basket, and with their intended end result unreached, they paid the price of trading for these key pieces, who all turned into rentals. 

With Hathaway, Orlov and Bertuzzi now gone, Boston still seemed like they were going in the right direction. After all, their season was still met with heaves of success prior to their trade deadline acquisitions. However, it wasn’t until the loss of two more fan favorites that ensued panic into the lives of Bruins fans across New England. Both captain Patrice Bergeron and veteran centerman David Krejčí announced their retirement from hockey at season’s end after months of rumors speculated that 2022 would be the final year both players would suit up. And it’s not just the loss of Bergy and Krejčí that stings for Bruins fans, it’s the uncertainty behind who will fill the gaping holes these two left behind. 

There was some hope that Bertuzzi would be one of the centerpieces in Boston’s future; the insane stat line he put up in the playoffs certainly helped him plead his case as an important contributor to the team’s chemistry, as noted by Conor Ryan of Boston.com (1). The crafty forward won over the hearts of the black and gold’s fans almost immediately in part by his puck possession skills, wicked wrist shot and elite play that soon painted him as the Bruins’ nonpareil in their seven-game series against the Panthers.

 Yet, despite putting up ten points in seven games for the B’s, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney decided to fold on the Bertuzzi sweepstakes, and the phenom signed a one-year deal with his hometown team, the rival Maple Leafs. And so it goes, even after his trade of another signature forward in Taylor Hall pointed all signs toward an inevitable reunion with Bertuzzi, it was back to square one for Sweeney. With their most prolific forwards gone, the Bruins were in dire need of help on all four lines, but their lack of dexterity in the top six was the biggest setback, and it stuck out like a sore thumb. 

Luckily, Sweeney was proactive in trying to patch things up and was able to pick up a mix of seasoned veterans and up-and-coming prodigies that may blossom into future commodities. One of the biggest moves he made was when he signed veteran enforcer Milan Lucic, winning back Boston’s diehards by reuniting them and the Bruins with a treasured, homegrown talent. Lucic signed a one-year contract the first day of free agency, July 1, as noted by CBS Sports (2).

James Van Riemsdyk will be joining forces with the Bruins too, a high profile old timer who will now be helping the B’s embark on a journey to the Stanley Cup instead of rivaling them as a form of kryptonite on the Maple Leafs and Flyers. The same goes for Kevin Shattenkirk, a once sought-after defenseman who signed with Boston as an established journeyman, hoping to show he still has a lot left in the tank. Among the group of young talent Boston picked up was Morgan Geekie, who came over from the Kraken and signed a one-year deal July 1, according to CBS Sports (2).

Generally speaking, this team is stacked—or at least would’ve been ten years ago. That being said, though the leadership presence of the team is unmatched, many of these new pickups are far past their prime. And though one could say that the same argument could be made for Bergeron and Krejčí, the biggest difference that separated the two from the newly signed players is that their output was still top of the line when they called it quits.

As a result, the Bruins are in the midst of a dilemma and have some decisions to make regarding who will supersede the teams’ former top two centermen, not to mention relieve Hall and Bertuzzi. Thankfully, the Bruins’ preseason games were able to answer that question, but the replacement in mind was a once-unlikely candidate to fill the role.

Matthew Poitras, a 2022 second round pick for Boston, has shined as a second line center, showing flashes of greatness in the preseason while playing alongside future hall of famer David Pastrňák. He potted goals in consecutive games against the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, according to google, and is making a case for becoming an everyday player at just 19 years old. Charlie Coyle has also inserted himself into the conversation as a potential top six guy, the same can be said for Geekie and Van Riemsdyk; Pavel Zacha has also situated himself nicely as the first line center alongside Bruins’ Captain Brad Marchand and Jake Debrusk. 

Although, preseason can be a time in which people tend to overreact, so even though the team may be clicking right now, there’s no certainty that this will be the case when starters step in during the regular season. There is one major problem the Bruins currently face, one that shouldn’t be overlooked because it has plagued the Bruins since last year’s playoffs. That problem is goaltending. 

Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark looks like a shell of his former self; the 2023 Vezina trophy winner hasn’t recovered since being thrown to the Panthers in last year’s quarterfinals. In his two preseason starts, Ullmark has allowed nine goals on 77 shots, according to Google (3), including the overtime winner in the Bruins’ 5–4 loss to the Capitals Tuesday, Oct. 3. Jeremy Swayman has dealt with similar struggles; according to Google, Swayman is 1–1 in the preseason, and although he made a nice recovery with a 3–1 win over the Rangers Thursday, Oct. 5, he fell to a weak Flyers group, letting up three goals on just 24 shots (3).

The 2022–23 season ended on showcasing the Bruins’ mortality, and after a heartbreaking defeat in the height of their reign, Boston looks to reclaim their throne with the help of both new and familiar faces. Some faces of the franchise may be gone, and the team will inevitably be unable to replicate their production as the greatest regular season team of all time, but this group still shows promise. Veteran leadership goes a long way in sports, and the Bruins have more than their fair share in that department. The talent is still there, and the group is capable of competing with the top dogs of the NHL. It’s a matter of maintaining their composure in big moments that will allow them to proceed further than last year.

Fans can catch the Bruins face off against former Boston studs Taylor Hall and “Uncle Nick” Foligno this Wednesday, Oct. 11 when the Chicago Blackhawks come to town in their season opener. Some lucky people may be able to purchase a $250 balcony ticket before they’re out. If not, the game’s on NESN, 7:30 p.m. start time. Fans won’t regret watching Looch light someone up in the first minute he’s back donning the spoked B. Because then, Chicago’s roster will learn a valuable lesson that’s been passed down from generation to generation over the past 100 years: don’t poke the bear.

 

  1. https://www.boston.com/sports/boston-bruins/2023/07/04/tyler-bertuzzi-bruins-nhl-hockey-toronto-maple-leafs/?amp=1
  2. https://www.cbssports.com/nhl/teams/BOS/boston-bruins/transactions/
  3. https://www.google.com/search?q=bruins&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari

 

About the Contributors
Nick Collins, Sports Editor
Bianca Oppedisano, Illustrator