The 2020-21 NHL season is right around the corner, with opening night kicking off on Jan. 13 and the long-anticipated wait finally being over for hockey fans. With training camp starting up this week as teams are preparing for the grueling season, the Boston Bruins will have to overcome some challenges this season if they want to compete for a Stanley Cup this upcoming season.
Boston kicks off its season on Jan. 14 with a two-game series with the New Jersey Devils. So let’s dive into some big storylines looming around the Bruins for the upcoming campaign.
Who Replaces Chara as Captain?
Chara wore the captain “C” on his number 33 Bruins jersey for over a decade, and that time is sadly now done. The Washington Capitals recently signed Chara to a one-year $795,000 deal in the offseason. In his 14-year career in Boston, the defenseman led the Bruins to three Stanley Cup appearances (2011, 2013, 2019) and a Stanley Cup victory in that 2011 run against the Vancouver Canucks.
He played in 1,023 games, scored 148 goals, and dished out 333 assists in his career with the Bruins. It was Chara’s toughness, leadership, and his endless pursuit of the puck that Boston and its fans are going to miss the most about this guy.
The most obvious pick to replace Chara with the “C” on his jersey is wearing the “A” on his sweater as the alternate captain, center Patrice Bergeron. The 35-year-old, 16-year veteran was drafted by the Bruins back in 2003 with the 45th overall pick and has been a model Bruin for years. Teammates look up to Bergeron, and he has produced in both the scoring and passing departments for years with this team, so handing the captain duties to him should be a no brainer.
Wait for a second, though. There may be some sleepers candidates for the team’s captain this year. One of those candidates should be a fellow defenseman, Charlie McAvoy. Here’s a younger guy who has shown some great leadership qualities on the ice in his bright career. McAvoy is entering his fourth season as a member of the black and yellow and could be a good fit for the captain position.
Another veteran in the possibility of being a leader is 11-year Bruin veteran Brad Marchand. Like Chara and Bergeron, Marchand was a part of those three Stanley Cup runs in the past 10 years and is another viable option. Boston’s good news is that any one of these players will be great options to replace Chara as Captain this year.
Bruins’ Stars Offseason Surgeries Will Play a Role Early On
Well, this has been a storyline for quite some time now for the Bruins when it was announced that Marchand and star winger David Pastrnak had offseason surgeries in the middle of September. Now, with the season going underway next week, it’s time to revisit this problem for Boston.
Both these guys are why the Bruins offense is so electric. Pastrnak is one of the best young talents in the entire league, and he showed that last season. He scored 48 goals, which led the NHL, and sauced 47 assists for 95 points.
His fellow first-liner Marchand was dominant a year ago, too, with 28 goals and a team-best 59 assists. Although both are expected only to miss the beginning of the season, other guys will have put the puck in the net. If the Bruins can’t score early on the season, these two being out are the main reason.
Bruins’ Surprise Players
A massive question, especially early on, is this. Which Bruin will be the biggest surprise in 2021. I mentioned him earlier, but McAvoy could have a breakout year with the departure of Chara. His game has grown each season, and the possible pairing of him and Matt Gryzelcyk could be lethal. Both are tremendous skaters and have an eye for finding the open man, especially on the power play.
Someone who is being talked about at training camp is top-prospect Jack Studnicka. He played in a few games in the bubble last season and impressed. Even though he only had one assist in two games, Studnicka’s energy and ability to move without the puck to create scoring chances raised some eyebrows in his brief action. Studnicka plays the game hard from the sounds of it at camp, and Bruins fans should keep an eye out for this guy.
Should Bruins Be Favored in Tough Division?
The answer should be yes for the Bruins in 2020-21. The biggest challenge in the new division format for Boston has to be the Philadelphia Flyers or the New York Islanders. Philadelphia is coming off an impressive 2019-20 in its own right after being the number one overall seed in the Eastern Conference to start the playoffs.
Meanwhile, watch out for the Islanders, who made the conference finals last year. They will be hungry to get back this year, so the Bruins will have to be prepared for some big matchups.
Some injuries early on could make Boston have to play catch-up at some point during the season when everyone returns healthy, but there is too much star power at the end of the day. This team finished with a record of 44-14-12 (100 points) a season ago, and expectations should be high for head coach Bruce Cassidy’s club as he heads into his fifth year.