I’ve been away from the blog for a week (shouts road trips) and look what happens– the Boston Bruins are off to a 1-1-1 start on a four-game road trip, having lost in Colorado, 6-3, against the Avalanche on Nov. 14th, then losing in overtime, 1-0, to the Dallas Stars on Nov. 16th before beating the Arizona Coyotes, 2-1, on Nov. 17th thanks to goals from Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (his first career National Hockey League goal) and Jake DeBrusk (8)– so there’s a quick little recap for you, if you’ve been wondering where the last two games have been around here on the site.
Oh and the Bruins have reached the quarter-mark of the regular season having completed 20 games, which means it’s time to update my forecasted stats for Boston.
Really couldn’t have timed a quick trip outside of New England better than I did, thank you very much.
In all seriousness, the Bruins lost Zdeno Chara due to injury in Colorado– leaving my personal road trip off to a poor taste– then Patrice Bergeron went down with an injury in Dallas while I helplessly streamed the radio broadcast from the NHL app in a hotel room.
The Hockey Gods don’t believe in having fun outside of the sport.
My neurotic bumblings were eased with the support of the “next man up” mentality in the dressing room and, well, Connor Clifton beating the crap out of a guy against the Stars in his first career NHL fight (in his NHL debut, nonetheless).
That guy being Jason Spezza, who’s actually kind of a big deal and not a jerk(?).
Anyway, Boston is 5th in the Atlantic Division through 20 games played this season with an 11-6-3 record (25 points), a plethora of injuries and a lackluster depth scoring situation.
Through 20 games last season, the B’s were 9-7-4 (22 points) and 4th in the division.
This season, 25 points in the Eastern Conference is good enough for the 2nd wild card spot (for now). Last season, 22 points wasn’t good enough to be ahead of the playoff cutoff line.
If anything, they’re managing to weather the storm well, despite having more injuries to the roster this year than this time last November– but they’re still not showing signs of the dominant Eastern Conference team that we saw from January through March of last season.
Peaking at the right time is of the utmost importance in sports.
In high school, when you’re running the mile, it’s the second lap that’s the most important before you begin to drop the hammer on the third lap and go all out on the fourth lap. The second lap is make or break.
For Braden Holtby and the Washington Capitals last season it meant having Holtby get off to a rocky start, lose his starting job for the first two games of the postseason, then go on to win the Stanley Cup by virtue of Holtby regaining his rhythm on top of the ridiculous depth scoring capabilities of guys like Devante Smith-Pelly and Brett Connolly.
For the Bruins last season, it meant being in contention for the President’s Trophy hunt late into the regular season, falling short, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the First Round, then being too worn down to even match the compete level of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Second Round.
Boston was done in five games– 12 postseason games total.
What all of this has to do with this season is that basically, the Bruins are a combination of the team on the ice last season and their mirror image below-average start to this season as Washington had last season.
Their starting netminder has struggled, their scoring depth isn’t apparent and they’re clinging to a playoff berth.
In other words, it’s too early to rule them out– as evidenced last season, Mike.
But– and this the important part– the window for optimal peak performance is closing. The B’s are running the second lap of the mile in high school track right now, if you will.
Another ten games of whatever has plagued them from October until now will leave them just barely on the outside of the postseason looking in like the Florida Panthers did last season with 96 points.
They won’t set a PR (personal record), nor will they get a chance to compete for the Cup.
Tuukka Rask is back from his personal leave of absence and kept Boston close in Dallas, despite allowing the game’s only goal– in overtime– with a defense that featured Torey Krug as the only regular, Matt Grzelcyk as the usual seventh defender turned regular for now and Steven Kampfer as the go-to blue liner when Chara, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, Charlie McAvoy and John Moore are all out of the lineup.
Plus Jakub Zboril and Clifton made their NHL debuts in Dallas, with Jeremy Lauzon continuing to see ice-time since Urho Vaakanainen was an emergency recall that sustained a concussion in his 2nd career game while in Ottawa.
We haven’t seen what a full, well-rested, Bruins lineup is capable of yet so far this season.
They spent training camp and part of the preseason with split squads and most of their NHL regulars in China, returned with jet-lag that slowed their legs down through the first couple of weeks of October, got banged up and since then have been waiting for the return of… everyone? Is that fair to say at this point?
Without further ado, here’s an updated look at the forecasted stats for the Bruins roster. As always, keep in mind there are many variables that can or will change things as seen here due to injuries, being a healthy scratch, being assigned to the minors (or called up), sickness and general hot and cold streaks unbeknownst to the formulas of Microsoft Excel.
My degree is in communication– not math.
These forecasted stats are an utopian outlook on the remaining 62 games of the regular season for Boston. If a player exceeds the forecast, they’ve exceeded expectations. If a player matches the forecast, they’ve met expectations. If a player falls short, they were either hurt a lot or simply didn’t live up to expectations.
Hockey is both quantifiably predictable because of its concrete stats (goals, assists, points– everything on the scoresheet each night) and certifiably unpredictable due to its collective nature and sheer puck luck.
Boston Bruins Forecast Through 20 Games (62 Games Remaining)
One player that’s been consistent all season long thus far is David Pastrnak. Brad Marchand‘s become more of a playmaker through the first 20 games while Pastrnak’s emerged as a superstar in the making– drawing comparisons to Jaromir Jagr from Czech Republic’s other legendary player, Petr Klima.
Pastrnak’s success should land him his third consecutive season amassing 70 points or more, while also surpassing the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his career. In doing so, Pastrnak would be the first 40-goal scorer for the Bruins since Glen Murray had 44 goals in 2002-03.
With Bergeron missing some games due to injury, David Krejci looks to reemerge as the leading assist collector for the B’s, reaching 46 expected assists this season.
In the meantime, DeBrusk surpasses the 20-goal plateau and solidifies himself as a top-six forward, while Danton Heinen continues to grow as a candidate for top-six minutes in spite of Boston not having a guy like Artemi Panarin alongside Krejci and DeBrusk.
On defense, Krug rebounds from missing time to a 43-point season, leading McAvoy (38 expected points) and crew in scoring from the point.
Though Jaroslav Halak has won playing time with the hot hands in goal at the quarter-mark, Rask settles into his rhythm with an expected goals against average of 2.32 and an expected save percentage of .920 to backstop his team to perhaps one of the best 1-2 matchups in net– if not, 1A-1B– of the entire league.
Halak, in the meantime, should cool to a 2.43 GAA and .919 SV%, but both numbers are highly valuable for backup goaltending duties especially if the Bruins can continue to get healthy and limit the shot attempts against.
Healthy competition for playing time in the crease isn’t a bad thing if both goaltenders are performing thanks to a limited workload from their teammates.
The next forecast review (through 40 games played) should determine whether or not the Bruins are serious playoff contenders or large-scale pretenders with a lot to lose in 2018-19.