Bruins Daily’s 2015-16 season predictions
We are now less than 48 hours away from opening night and the opinions are quite mixed on how the Bruins’ 2015-16 season will play out. Will they be able to overcome some obstacles and return to the playoffs, or is another early exit on the horizon? Our staff weighs in on the B’s and shares their conference champion and Stanley Cup picks for Bruins Daily’s 2015-16 season predictions.
Best Case scenario: Obviously the best case scenario for the Bruins is a Stanley Cup, but the chances of that happening are slim. Realistically for the Bruins, their best case scenario is slipping into the playoffs and pulling off and upset in the first round. It’s highly unlikely they finish ahead of Montreal, Tampa Bay or Ottawa for a top-three finish in the Atlantic, so a wild card berth would their ticket to the dance. A wild card spot would set them up with a very difficult opening round matchup, one that Tuukka Rask would need to steal.
Worst case scenario: The Bruins defense is a mess, no questioning that. But sometimes your best defensemen is not even a defensemen, it’s your goalie. If the Bruins were to lose Rask for any amount of time in 2015-16, the Black and Gold would be in big trouble.
Bruins prediction: Although overall I think last year’s team was better than this season, the Bruins were one boring team to watch in 2014-15. Despite not being as talented, The B’s are poised to be a more entertaining team to watch. Hanging around the playoff bubble all season long, I predict the Bruins to finish fourth in the Atlantic and ninth in the east, missing out on the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Eastern Conference Final: Washington over Tampa Bay
Western Conference Final: Anaheim over Chicago
Stanley Cup Final: Anaheim over Washington
Best case scenario: The Bruins finish dead last and draft Auston Matthews. They appear poised to go into that mediocre state of oblivion both in the standings and in terms of relevance in pro sports in Boston. That was the case from 1995-96 until basically 2007-08 and while management made plenty of changes, they weren’t the type of changes that are going to make this team the contender they were from 2008-09 until 2013-14. By no means should any team tank a season but if it’s clear that the Bruins are still at best a bubble team around late January, just let the season play out and don’t mortgage future for false hope at contending. It won’t hurt to give those prospects a taste of the NHL at that time either.
Worst case scenario: The worst case scenario is what I believe will happen and that is that the Bruins do get mired in mediocrity and become a perennial bubble team. If the Bruins once again finish just out of or just in the playoffs then they will never be forced to make the wholesale changes they need to or even be given the chance in the draft. Of course, it’s been proven that teams can rebuild on the fly, but such teams were or are in better position to do so than this current crop in Boston.
Bruins Prediction: Bruins finish 10th in the Eastern Conference with 89 points and nine points shy of a playoff spot.
Eastern Conference Final: Blue Jackets over Canadiens
Western Conference Final: Ducks over Wild
Stanley Cup Final: Ducks over Blue Jackets
Best case scenario: Last season, only Patrice Bergeron scored more than 50 points (55). A polar-opposite aging, and young and emerging defense will be heavily tested every game. The forwards have to supply more backchecking, while the core of Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson average at least an even plus-minus stat, and 50 points for the team to achieve playing beyond 82 regular season games. Beyond this core, newcomers Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, and Brett Connolly establish a consistent presence on offense and defense. Tuukka Rask appeared in 70 games last season with a final 2.25 GAA; he replicates that effort this year. The team plays with the lead more times than not and wins more OT and shootout games than it loses in what will likely be many low-scoring and one-goal games.
Worst case scenario: David Pastrnak and Ryan Spooner do not pick up where they left off last season as emerging NHL talents over an 82-game schedule this season. Claude Julien does not find a stable fourth-line that resembles the effectiveness of the Shawn Thornton-Gregory Campbell-Daniel Paille combo of two seasons ago.
38-year-old Zdeno Chara recorded his lowest total in games played and points scored last year. If he does not start Thursday night after suffering an upper-body injury last Monday in his first game, Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid are the team’s No. 1 and No. 2 defensemen. Regardless, Chara, Dennis Seidenberg (out another month after back surgery), Krug, McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow, Colin Miller and Matt Irwin now represent the team’s defensive complement for the season. Hard to figure how this group can compete for 82 games without a lot of help from the forwards — and Don Sweeney via a major trade for back-end support.
Bruins prediction: Second verse same as the first: Defense wins games; the Bruins finish ninth in a more competitive Eastern Conference and miss the playoffs while the team continues to rebuild.
Eastern Conference Final: Tampa Bay over New York Rangers
Western Conference Final: Anaheim over Nashville
Stanley Cup Final: Tampa Bay over Anaheim
Best Case scenario: Somehow, someway, the Bruins best case scenario would be to finish third in the Atlantic Division and avoid having to fight for one of the two wild card spots. The Metropolitan Division is the stronger of the two divisions in the Eastern Conference and it’s fair to suggest that they’ll get five teams from that group of eight into the playoffs. The Islanders, Penguins and Blue Jackets should all be fighting for the third spot in the Metro, which would leave the final two battling for the wild card spots. That means the Bruins would have to fight off the Red Wings, Senators and Panthers for third in the Atlantic — something that isn’t likely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened. For that to happen, they’ll need the new additions (Jimmy Hayes, Matt Beleskey, Zac Rinaldo and Matt Irwin) to shine along with the young blue-line progressing during the course of the year and they’ll need a healthy Zdeno Chara for 82 games (or at least close to that).
Worst case scenario: The Bruins defense regresses as they can’t find a way to protect Tuukka Rask. That would make matters worse in the fact that Rask would have to play somewhere between 65 and 70 games like he did a year ago (71). If that’s the case, the B’s offense will have to make up for that by getting in a track meet with their opponents. Although the offense might see improvements from last year where they ranked 22nd in goals scored (averaging 2.55 goals per game), I don’t think it’s good enough to make those track meets happen. All this could result in the Black and Gold falling to as low as sixth in the Atlantic and 11th or 12th in the East. As Murph alluded to, they’d be much better off tanking for Auston Matthews.
Bruins prediction: Despite the questionable trade of Dougie Hamilton, the Bruins roster looks decent. Rask and Patrice Bergeron continues to provide stability, while a healthy David Krejci could really spark things and the progression of Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak looks promising. But this team has too many holes, particularly on the blue-line. Unless Sweeney makes a notable transaction for a top-4 defenseman, the Black and Gold will finish with 91 points, good for fourth in the Atlantic and ninth in the East. I can’t see how this team makes the playoffs.
Eastern Conference Final: Tampa Bay over Washington
Western Conference Final: Anaheim over Dallas
Stanley Cup Final: Anaheim over Tampa Bay