Which 5 Boston Bruins Will Have the Best Plus-Minus Stats in 2013-14
Under coach Claude Julien, a number of Boston Bruins have consistently racked up elite plus-minus ratings. Once again built to be a highly efficient five-on-five team, the 2013-14 Bruins are bound to produce a handful of very positive ratings.
Both Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara have topped the league in plus-minus in the past three years, and the 2011-12 Bruins held the top five spots on the end of year plus-minus leaderboard.
Though the Bruins probably won't dominate the category that degree this season, they should manage some impressive numbers.
Here are the five Bruins most likely to finish with the team's best ratings:
5. Reilly Smith
Reilly Smith has less name recognition than the other players on this list, but he has a legitimate chance to post a massive plus-minus rating.
After an impressive start in his first season with the Bruins, Smith earned a promotion to Boston's second-line. There is no guarantee that he will hold on to the spot he took from Brad Marchand long term, but if he can stick in the top-six his goal differential will soar.
Nothing is better for a player's plus-minus than skating with Patrice Bergeron. Two years ago, Bergeron helped Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin to top-5 ratings of plus-31 and plus-34 respectively.
Through eight games, Smith is tied for the plus-minus lead among Bruins forwards with a plus-5 rating. If he spends the whole season in the top-six expect him to thrive.
4. Loui Eriksson
Loui Eriksson is almost certain to surpass his career high plus-18 in his first Boston season, so long as he is afforded enough games with Patrice Bergeron.
The Swedish star's position in the top-six is secure, but a dirty hit from Buffalo's John Scott could keep him off the ice for some time.
Whenever he comes back, Eriksson will enjoy the benefit of Bergeron just as Reilly Smith will. However, he won't need Bergeron to carry him.
Eriksson should hover around the team points lead by season's end if he doesn't miss significant time. His excellent defensive play will complement Bergeron's to possibly create one of the league's best two-way lines.
If he plays 70 or more games, Eriksson ought to finish the season with a plus-30 rating or better.
3. Johnny Boychuk
Since arriving in Boston, Johnny Boychuk has quietly developed into a tremendous top-pairing defenseman. Consistently underrated, Boychuk makes a major contribution at both ends of the ice.
Two years ago, Boychuk ranked eighth in the NHL with a plus-27 rating, and he could top that career high this season.
He also gets to play with Zdeno Chara, who is a dominant plus-minus force.
Unlike Dennis Seidenberg who has consistently been paired with rookies this year, Boychuk stands side by side with one of the most dependable two-way defenseman in the game. His plus-minus number should climb steadily throughout the season.
2. Zdeno Chara
Though some speculate that Chara has lost a step at age 36, he continues to be a plus-minus beast.
Chara posted a league-best plus-33 rating back in 2010-11. He matched that rating the following year, but he was beaten to the NHL's best mark by Patrice Bergeron.
The gigantic Chara will once again anchor the Bruins' stingy defense, while featuring on both the power play and penalty kill. With such a good team around him, Chara's massive minutes will almost inevitably lead to a great rating.
The Bruins may try to rest their captain at times this year to keep him fresh for the playoffs, but his impact on both ends of the ice should keep his plus-minus high no matter what.
1. Patrice Bergeron
Patrice Bergeron has become a perennial Selke Trophy favorite for a reason. He is a truly elite two-way player, equaled only by Pavel Datsyuk and Jonathan Toews.
Bergeron won the Selke in 2011-12 by leading the league with a plus-34 rating, and there is no reason to believe another excellent rating won't be on the cards this season.
The center's faceoff wizardry allows his team to dominate possession whenever he is on the ice. While he dominates at the dot, the Bruins can rack up goals without giving opponents an opportunity.
When not in possession, Bergeron is arguably the league's most effective defensive-zone center.
So long as he clicks with new linemates Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith, he is the clear favorite to lead the Bruins in plus-minus.