The Boston Bruins started the season with a little preseason road trip to China. Coaching staff and players called it the trip of a lifetime and lauded it as a great Bruins team-building season opportunity.
2018-19 Record (49-24-9) 107 points
The Bruins opener against the then-defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals was a night that the Bruins had to quickly forget. They went on to win the next four, including their home opener against the Ottawa Senators.
Injuries plagued the roster
The Bruins found out early in the season that they would have to find ways to win despite injuries to several key players. Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Tuukka Rask, David Pastrnak, Sean Kuraly, Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Noel Acciari, and others, all spent time off the ice due to injury. The Bruins team-building season rolled on.
Early in December, in the pregame for the Detroit Red Wings-Bruins game, NESN’s Jack Edwards commented, “Someone distracted the nurse and they’re starting to get out of the infirmary.” Unfortunately, the injury bug would continue to plague the Bruins throughout the season and the highway between Providence and Boston became very well-traveled.
None the less, the Bruins continued to find ways to win hockey games. There was a silver lining in that a few of the injuries did result in an interesting phenomenon: Fishbowl Kuraly and the Kura-leap, and Fishbowl Acciari. Following facial injuries, both wore the fishbowl face shield which seemed to ignite their respective games in a manner known only to the hockey gods.
To sum it up
This is the quick take: Wins and losses were recorded, Pasta was an All-Star, and the Winter Classic was played in Notre Dame Stadium on New Year’s Day. Records were broken, Bergy reached a milestone, playoff beards were grown, and hearts were broken in the Stanley Cup Final Game 7. Many fans, and I am sure all of the players, wish that the first and last games of 2018-19 could have “do-overs.” The 2018-19 Bruins had something special. You could sense it in every interview with both players and coaches. Every Bruins fan is hoping that something special was brought about by the Bruins team-building season as it carries into 2019-20.
For the record book:
- Patrice Bergeron- 1000 regular season games.
- Tuukka Rask- Winningest Goalie in Bruins history (265)
- Brad Marchand– Most Short Handed Goals (26) and a 100 point season.
Season MVP – Tuukka Rask
Few Boston athletes can polarize the fan base like Tuukka Rask. From his early-season “personal leave,” to what many consider another failure in the Stanley Cup Final, Rask’s season was not perfect. Eventually, he seemed to find his place. In tandem with Jaroslav Halak, Rask backstopped the Bruins at an elite level that many doubted he still had in him. And, who can forget that amazing “two pad stack” save to deny the LA Kings Alex Iofallo? (2/16/2019) As an aside, Rask bested the Columbus Blue Jackets goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Bobrovsky just signed a seven-year, $70 million deal with the Florida Panthers. Rask’s $7 million AAV, seems pretty paltry, comparatively, all of a sudden.
Honorable Mention- The Fourth Line (WAK line) Chris Wagner, Acciari and Kuraly. Joakim Nordstrom rotated onto this line, as well. At times, this line was the most steady, highest production line for the Bruins. A blue collar-type, hard-hitting, get it done line. This line started against most of the top lines in the league and didn’t just survive, they THRIVED in the Bruins team-building season!
Most Improved Player – Danton Heinen
Danton Heinen was drafted 116th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft out of the University of Denver, known as a goal scorer. He hasn’t found the goal-scoring touch in Big Boy Hockey…yet. Understand, when he did score, it was rarely a quiet accident, but rather a highly skilled display of on-ice awareness. Heinen has slotted in up and down the Bruins lineup. In the 2018-19 regular season, he played 77 games netting 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points and a +13 rating. Heinen was most successful playing on the Bergeron Line when Pastrnak was sidelined by a freak thumb injury, but it would be hard to find a player that could play badly alongside Bergeron and Marchand.
In today’s NHL the line between a good offensive D-man and a good defensive forward is beyond blurred. Heinen may not be producing as expected offensively but his growth as a defensive forward has been exponential. That +13 means that his defensive value cannot be denied. While he may not be finding the back of the net, neither is his opponent while Heinen is on the ice.
Disappointment – David Krejci’s (non-existent) Right Wing
David Krejci had a solid left-winger in DeBrusk. The Bruins were never able to find consistency on his right. There was hope that Marcus Johansson, who was picked up at the trade deadline, would slot in. Ultimately, Johansson had better chemistry with Charlie Coyle on the third line.
Highlight of the Year
15 was the charm.
It took 15 games for the Bruins to win against the Washington Capitals. Early in February, the Bruins were able to exorcise the demon. Redemption for the Bruins after the opening night 7-0 beatdown by the Capitals. A shut out for Rask on his record-breaking night. Game 999 for Bergeron, and something other than a zero in that win column. The Bruins are now 1-14 in the last 15 against the Caps. That win was huge in the Bruins team-building season!
Current Depth Chart
Bruins depth chart to follow up with injury updates and the latest news
Top Three Prospects
I have not included a few of what many may consider top prospects. While they may be considered prospects, they broke into the Bruins lineup several times during the 2018-19 season, with varying success. I feel that they are already “known entities” and wanted to look a bit deeper.
I have also purposefully not included the 2019 First Round Draft pick- John Beecher as realistically he isn’t expected to factor into the coming season. He will be skating for the University of Michigan.
Urho Vaakanainen – Vaakanainen had a very brief stint with the Bruins before being sidelined with a concussion. However, he did not sit idle. He helped lead Finland to a World Juniors title in December. He is now back with the Providence Bruins. With the current depth at their blueline, the Bruins may choose to let Vaakanainen develop further down in Providence. Of course, that depth is dependent on signing current defensemen, McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.
Jack Studnicka – Studnicka (Center) is probably the most likely to make the Bruins roster next season. He had a noteworthy season in the Ontario Hockey League. Studnicka began the season in Oshawa before being traded to Niagra. He posted 59 points in 48 games. Of those points, 25 were in his first 18 games with Niagra.
Zach Senyshyn – Senyshyn (Center) was a Bruins first-round pick in 2015. His 21 points in 45 games played this season with the Providence Bruins is less than his 26 points in 2017-18. This could be his make or break season.
Players Primed For a Breakout Season
Jake DeBrusk – DeBrusk was self-admittedly “streaky” for most of the season. In all fairness, this was probably the result of the inconsistency on the right-wing. If the Krejci line can find the “right” fit, DeBrusk may find he can shine!
David Pastrnak – Sidelined by a freak off ice thumb injury, Pasta’s rising star took a different (downward) trajectory. If he can stay healthy, the upcoming season will bring “carb overload.”
Departures: Marcus Johansson to the Buffalo Sabres. Noel Acciari to the Florida Panthers.
The Bruins do not seem partial to trading any of their players at this time, with the notable exception of David Backes. And, even in saying that, the Bruins appear to be resigned to their joined fate.
The most pressing offseason task for general manager Don Sweeney is to get McAvoy and Carlo signed!
The Bruins are still well within their “Cup Window.” The game 7 loss this year left a mark, and that pain is going to drive the Bruins right through another deep playoff run in 2020. After the lowest of lows following game 7, I have this team trending up and hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup come next June!