Today we bring you the Boston Bruins' Season Preview Report (SPR), the third in our 30-team series...
Last Season versus the Playoff Qualifying Curve (PQC): Called Chasing Stanley – in the playoffs – at Game 20/21 November 2008, and went on to finish 1st in the Eastern Conference (just one point behind San Jose in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy). Boston’s rise has been rapid, as indicated by their finish of 5.8 on the PQC, which was +1.1 over their 07-08 performance, and a full +2.0 over 06-07. While the Bruins lost some ground against the PQC during the Games 50-70 stretch (-1.5), they had plenty of ground to give: From 28 November 08 – 3 January 09, the B’s went 15-1-0, distancing themselves from the pack in the East.
Post Lockout Average versus the PQC: The 08-09 season marked a dramatic turnaround for a club which failed to make the playoffs in their first two post-Lockout campaigns. The Bruins’ post-Lockout average going into last season was 4.07, which means that they bettered their average by an amazing 42.5% in 08-09! Boston’s rapid ascent was marred only by their disappointing Game 7 loss to Carolina in the second round of the playoffs. In analyzing the B’s last four campaigns, a couple of patterns emerge: First, they tend to play close to the PQC through Game 10, gradually heating up between Games 10-20 (Game 20 is where the Bruins clinched a playoff spot in each of the last two seasons). Second, Boston tends to go on a hot streak in Games 40-50, playing well above the PQC during that stretch in 3 of 4 campaigns…Must be something special about Beantown in January.
So how does this team look heading into the 2009-10 season?
Team Play: ISSUE-Phil, we hardly knew ye. As the Bruins begin drifting back into The Hub to prepare for training camp, their leading goal scorer in 08-09, Phil Kessel, is missing. It seems that what young master Kessel thinks he’s worth and what Bruins management can afford to pay him and maintain some salary cap sanity are quite far apart. Until Kessel is either signed or traded, Boston’s forward lines will be in a state of flux. Even if the B’s are able to sign Kessel, he could miss the first two months of the season as he continues to recover from shoulder surgery. Don’t be surprised to see a top line of Lucic-Savard-Ryder come October, followed by Sturm-Bergeron-Kobasew, Wheeler-Krejci-Bitz, and Recchi-Begin-Thornton…and even without Kessel, don’t be surprised if the B’s have eight or nine 20+ goal scorers at the end of the season.
On the blueline, Norris Trophy winner Zdeno Chara returns to a unit unchanged but for the departure of Aaron Ward and arrival of Derek Morris. For the B’s purposes, this is an improvement: Expect a little more offense out of the defense in 09-10.
In goal, Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas rules the roost, but backup Manny Fernandez will be replaced by Tuukka Rask. With a compressed schedule (due to the Olympics), expect Rask to see around 30 starts this season.
Fantasy Value: So many players, so few fantasy roster slots. Marc Savard always gives good value, though he’s probably not worth a 1st round pick in your draft. Michael Ryder rebounded from a sub-par 07-08 campaign to score 27 goals last season. If he starts the season on Savard’s line, he should top 30 in 09-10. In deeper leagues, Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Blake Wheeler and even Mark Recchi are all solid prospects. Zdeno Chara, of course, should be one of the top three d-men on your list, though Dennis Wideman and Matt Hunwick won’t disappoint. Last, but certainly not least, Tim Thomas is a must-have goalie.
Schedule Analysis: ISSUE – In Games 61-70, a seven-games-in-eleven-days road trip featuring back-to-backs at the beginning and end, as well as five opponents who made the playoffs last season.
If it’s Thursday, it must be the Buffalo Sabres’ 2009/10 SPR…
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