The Boston Bruins have a star-studded lineup—Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla are the biggest names wearing the black and gold this season.
Krejci has a new linemate in Iginla, as does Bergeron in Loui Eriksson. Chara is getting up there in age, but is still a force. And, oh yeah, Bergeron and Rask both got seriously paid this summer.
What can we expect from the top stars of the team? These players will need to play their best to win the new Atlantic Division, which is going to be one of the most competitive in the league with the addition of the Red Wings and the up-and-coming Senators and Maple Leafs.
Here is one prediction for each of the Bruins' top stars this season.
I wrote last week that Iginla will score 35 goals, and that is something I'm sticking to.
Playing with David Krejci and Milan Lucic will be a treat for the veteran wing, and he will reach the 30-goal mark for the 12th time in his career.
Iginla never misses any time due to injury. Expect the goals to come.
Fresh off of signing an eight-year extension in the summer, Rask will be the No. 1 goalie for the second straight season.
Winning 35 games in a season isn't as hard as it used to be (due to the shootout), but it's still an accomplishment. With how he played last season (2.00 goals-against average) and the talented lineup skating in front of him, Rask should get to that plateau this season.
This isn't exactly a bold prediction for Krejci, who has scored 73 points one time in his career (2009, the last time he played every game in a season).
Krejci always elevates his scoring for the postseason, but this year, his regular-season numbers will improve.
In 424 career regular-season games, Krejci averages 0.73 points per game. But in 81 career playoff games, he averages 0.90 points per game.
With his new linemate (Iginla) and his old one (Lucic), Krejci will continue where he left off in June, score at a high rate this season and finish with at least 70 points.
A perennial Selke Trophy finalist, this will be the year Bergeron finally gets the overall attention he deserves.
He, along with Pavel Datsyuk, is one of the best two-way forwards in hockey. But this year, his offense will be appreciated more. He has proven to be one of the most clutch goal scorers in the league, and his penalty-killing and team leadership will come into consideration when the hockey writers are finalizing their candidates at the end of the regular season.
The only thing that will be a hindrance is the amount of star players on the Bruins. But that didn't stop Jonathan Toews from getting nominated last year.
Look for Bergeron to garner more than a few votes for the Hart.
Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe reported a couple of weeks ago that the Bruins were going to monitor the big man's ice time more closely this season so he is fresh for the playoffs. From Shinzawa's report:
“If he plays a little less, he’s going to give us more,” Julien said. “That’s the small adjustment. That doesn’t mean he’s going from 24 minutes to 19. There’s certainly going to be games where you’re going to see him get as much ice time. But we’re certainly going to keep an eye on that.”
It's the right move. He's 36, and it's also an Olympic year. He doesn't move like he used to, but he is still a top-five NHL defenseman, and when you have someone like Chara, you need every bit of his skill during the games that matter most.