If Boston is going to have trouble scoring again, Rask is going to have to be even better this year.
Boston is a team of history and tradition. After a year that saw them take the Northeast Division and breakout goalie Tim Thomas take home the Vezina, things slid backwards last year.
The fell to third in the division and sixth in the conference, Thomas was unseated by Tuukka Rask, and of course the painful end to the year in which they lost a 3-0 series lead to the eventual Eastern Conference Champion Philadelphia Flyers.
Turns out the offseason was a bit of a ride for the Bruins too. While there was the acquisition of Nathan Horton and the drafting of Tyler Seguin, there was also the controversy and questions surrounding Thomas and Marc Savard, as many wondered whether they'd be with the team come training camp.
Seems like a pretty good place to start the 10 Bold (or not so bold) Predictions for the Boston Bruins doesn't it?
1. Marc Savard stays, Thomas goes
While both have said that they're "happy" staying in Boston, a play is made for Thomas during the season by a playoff team that sees a star goalie fall to injury without a contingency plan. With a chance to realistically win the Cup, Thomas goes. While forwards seem more likely to be traded during the offseason, goalies are the ones who draw the headlines during the season, thanks in large part to injuries.
2. Nathan Horton scores 25 goals
I don't see how he can't. With two stellar play-making centres (Savard and Patrice Bergeron) to choose from, Horton will be the top-line right winger on this team. At the same time, he'll be expected to produce like one too. Fast fact, it's been three seasons since Horton scored at least 25 goals.
3. Zdeno Chara scores 15 goals but finishes with 45 points
By no means is that a bad season for any defenseman, but it's a bit of a letdown for Chara, who had his streak of consecutive 50-point seasons (two) snapped last year. He's the goal-scoring threat on this defense, with probably the best point shot in the league, but he won't match last year's career-high of 37 assists.
4. Milan Lucic bangs and crashes his way to another 100 penalty minutes
Last year was a letdown for Lucic as it seemed he could barely get off the IR. This year, he'll be back to the hard-nosed, win-at-all-costs form that made him a fan favorite, and the point production should probably return too.
5. Tyler Seguin won't have the success that many think he will
Let me set this straight by saying it's not because he isn't talented—he obviously is. What's different about Seguin though, is that he's going to a team where he isn't a featured piece. Honestly, since when do playoff teams draft second overall? Seguin is probably due for Jordan Staal-type rookie numbers (42ish points) as he'll probably be playing left wing and learning a top-end two-way game. Because they're trying to avoid pressuring Seguin unnecessarily, if he doesn't take to the NHL game right away, maybe he gets returned to the OHL. Look...it's unlikely but not unheard of, OK?
6. Mark Recchi finishes with 40 points, 28 of them assists
Just twelve goals for the NHL vet this year, but that's not exactly chicken feed for a guy that was playing junior hockey just three seasons after the 1980 Miracle on Ice. Recchi's always been more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, so the 23 and 18 goal years he's enjoyed the past two seasons are coming to an end, whether I'm right or he proves me wrong and then retires.
7. The Bruins' defense ranks amongst the lowest scoring in the league
Boston does have some offensively capable defensemen. Obviously there's Chara, and Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg have each put up 30-point seasons before (Seidenberg is working on back-to-back 30-point seasons), but past that Boston is going to be relying on a lot of youth. Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid, Matt Hunwick, and Mark Stuart will all be in the mix, but Boychuk is the only one with an offensively dominant season under his belt (66 points in the 2008-09 AHL season), he and Hunwick are both helped by the fact they each had fairly productive playoffs (six points in 13 games), but there's going to be a lot of onus on the forwards to pick up the slack.
8. Patrice Bergeron wins 60 percent of his faceoffs
Percentage-wise, he doesn't have far to go seeing as he finished last year fifth in the league winning them at a 58 percent clip. He'd join Scott Nichol, Rod Brind'Amour, Kris Draper, and Yanic Perreault as guys who have finished with a 60 percent success rate since the lockout.
9. The Bruins try to find another Miro Satan mid-season...and it doesn't work
This one is dependent on what happens with Seguin and the other young players that could earn themselves a shot on the wing. If they have trouble getting production down the sides, Boston's going to have to find someone to fill in. Think Freddy Modin or Marek Svatos.
10. Despite a late surge over the last three weeks of the season, the Bruins miss the playoffs
The defense needs to mature a little and they'll need bigger performances offensively (Last season's leading scorer had 52 points). If those things don't happen then Tuukka Rask needs to be even better than last year, which is a lot to ask from a young goalie.
The Stretch: Boston tanks the season and somehow takes Toronto down with them, giving them the first and second overall picks. The top defensive pairing then becomes Adam Larsson and David Musil.