When it comes to the Boston Bruins, it’s hard to say something went “wrong” in 2018-2019. They battled the St. Louis Blues down to the wire and just couldn’t come up with a Game Seven win to snag the Stanley Cup, but their push through the playoffs was imposing.
Boston finished 2018-2019 second in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference with a 49-24-9 record. Only the Tampa Bay Lightning had a better regular season.
Despite being a shade older than the league average, the Bruins proved they could hang with any team. Boston finished with 259 goals, one ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets but eight behind the Florida Panthers.
Boston’s goal differential was a +44, putting them second in the Eastern Conference thanks to a miserly defence. Only Tampa had a better differential at an astonishing +103, but that’ll happen when you score 325 goals in a season.
The Bruins had five players with 20 or more goals in 2018-2019.
Brad Marchand hit 100 points, a career-high. He scored 36 goals, including 10 on the power play and three short-handed. Only David Pastrnak was more effective on the man-advantage, with 17 of his 38 goals coming on the power play.
And really, the Bruins’ power play was the stuff of legend in 2018-2019. They were dynamite with the extra skater in the playoffs, too, so something’s been going very, very right in terms of how they’re drawing up those plays.
If there is a problem, it’s not so much a case of what went wrong as it is a case of what could go wrong. And even then, it’s hardly dire.
The salary cap only rose to $81.5 million for the 2019-2020 season and that’s going to make things snug for a number of teams – including Boston. The Bruins have a stack of restricted free agents, counting Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. The focus will be on those two and that could call for some major green, especially for McAvoy.
The Bruins have about $12 million to work with. McAvoy will be looking for significant term when he signs on the dotted line and it’s possible for a player of his calibre to net about $6 million a season. That positions the squad pretty well in terms of what they can offer.
Things get mildly tricky when it comes to prospects, which is when the team has to think long-term. The Bruins will want to lock in the likes of Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Ryan Fitzgerald, while Noel Acciari could rate a contract upgrade as well. It looks like Marcus Johansson will be the odd man out, as his asking price may be a touch high.
All the same, the core is largely intact and the Bruins don’t have to do too much to make 2019-2020 a success. One more push could do the trick, as everybody and everything still seems in line to make a Cup run.
(Lead photo credit: NHL.com)