What a regular season for the Boston Bruins.
The 2018-19 Bruins await the ultimate test that will define them the most. But for now, all we have to go off of is the regular season and they put together a good one.
At 49-24-9 (107 points), the B’s finish things off in the second slot in the Atlantic Division. If they were in any other division, they’d be in first place but the Tampa Bay Lightning went off for 62 wins and 128 points.
It’s the Bruins second-straight year with over 100 points, as they finished with 112 in 2017-18.
Since the Bruins closed the regular season with 49 wins, I figured I’d go through the 49 biggest takeaways from the season.
1.) They were really good at finding ways to win
It felt like no matter the night, the Bruins were never fully out of it. Since Bruce Cassidy took over in February of 2017, the Bruins don’t have many games where their heads are in the clouds for all 60 minutes.
But it really felt that way this year.
Towards the end of the 19-game point streak it was all comebacks. There were comeback wins against the Carolina Hurricanes, then the Florida Panthers, and then the Ottawa Senators. Even when they finally lost in regulation to the Pittsburgh Penguins, they made a late push.
2.) The 19-game point streak set the tone for everything but didn’t put them ahead
From January 29th until March 10th (19 games), the Bruins never lost a game in regulation. Throughout it, Tuukka Rask was hot and there wasn’t a guy in the dressing room who wasn’t feeling it.
The streak came out of nowhere as up until it, the Bruins were blowing leads left and right.
What a lot of people don’t understand is that it didn’t really put the Bruins ahead in the standings — it just kept them afloat with the Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
This Bruins streak has been an absolute blast to watch but look at their biggest competition over that same span
Since Jan. 29th…
Maple Leafs: 12-4-3
— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) March 10, 2019
3.) Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak is the best line in hockey
4.) Brad Marchand proved he could produce high offensive numbers and lay off the stupid stuff
After Marchand’s antics reached a peak during the playoffs last season, lots of people were calling for him to cut it out — enough with the licking and dirty stuff. It’s time to grow up and become a leader.
Well, 2018-19 saw Marchand do just that as he skyrocketed to fifth in the NHL with 100 points — the first Bruin to do it since Joe Thornton. He did all of this while never getting suspended. Yes, there were a few times in which he slashed someone at the end of a game or ran his mouth on the ice.
But for the most part, Marchand was clean as could be this season.
5.) Patrice Bergeron showed no signs of slowing down
He’s been in the league 15 years, but Bergeron is only 33-years-old. 2018-19 saw him put up 79 points — the most of his career. And that was only in 65 games. Had he played all 82, he’d be on pace for right around 100.
The epitome of Bergeron showing no signs of age was when he missed 16 games to injury and came back on December 22 against the Nashville Predators and put up two goals and two assists.
It seems like all Boston superstars age like a fine wine.
6.) David Pastrnak is the future face of the franchise
From representing the Bruins at the All-Star game in San Jose to ranking second on the team in points (81) and first in goals (38), it seems as if the 22-year-old has a ceiling as high as Mt. Everest.
He’s been helped immensely skating with Marchand and Bergeron, but his stats never took a hit when he went down to David Krejci’s line.
7.) Zdeno Chara is ageless
He’s 42-years-old and is still a force in the defensive zone. His time on ice hasn’t taken a major hit this season and even though his offensive game has taken a hit, the B’s decided to bring the big man back for 2019-20 on a $2 million deal with an extra $1.75 million in incentives.
He can still fight, too.
8.) First-half Charlie McAvoy: Nay; Second-half Charlie McAvoy: Yay
Charlie McAvoy suffered from injuries this past season, and it showed in his offensive and defensive game during the first half. He only had one goal, his defensive coverage was lacking and I know everyone hates plus/minus now, but he was a +3.
But in the second half, he improved for six goals and was a +11. His presence in the defensive zone was much better and he’s become more defined on the second power play unit.
9.) Bruce Cassidy’s such a good juggler he should join the circus
Head coach Bruce Cassidy was constantly juggling lines throughout the season with injuries, underachieving young guys, and a lack of secondary scoring. It seemed as though he was constantly pushing the right buttons, especially with the fourth line. He put them out late in close games and they typically came back to the bench with something to show for it.
10.) David Krejci finally proved he could produce with anyone
In past years, Krejci’s point totals have suffered from a lack of talent on both sides of him. But this year, he finished fourth on the Bruins in points with 73 — tied for most of his career.
Whether it was Peter Cehlarik, Karson Kuhlman, or Marchand, Krejci got the job done.
11.) Jake DeBrusk took a massive step forward
Even though 2017-18 saw him put up 43 points, Jake DeBrusk put up more goals this season with 27. There was no sign of a sophomore slump.
12.) Danton Heinen did not
Even though Danton Heinen was much better after the All-Star break (21 points in 30 games vs 13 in 47 during the first half), he still never really seemed to fit in. He spent time with Marchand and Bergeron with Pastrnak out. He spent time with Krejci. He was just sort of a misfit.
The biggest thing for Heinen is he needs to shoot the puck more.
13.) Carlo is the next Bruins shutdown defenseman
It felt as though Brandon Carlo was making a game-saving defensive play every night. His stock went through the roof this season and it should be interesting to see how he matches up against other team’s top forwards throughout the postseason.
14.) Shut up with your ‘Trade Torey Krug’ takes
Torey Krug ranked fifth on the Bruins in points with 53. That is elite offensive production. The B’s have enough shutdown guys to sink a ship. A solid, puck-moving, point-producing d-man is something every NHL team should strive to have and trends with the “new” NHL.
The power play is also noticeably way worse when he’s not out there running it.
15.) The Bruins can always field a good fourth line
The line of Noel Acciari-Sean Kuraly-Chris Wagner was dominant and could do it all. For a good chunk of the season, they went up against other team’s best scorers and stopped them. They could also be relied on to provide offense, as they were relentless on the forecheck and often times potted a goal to go with it.
16.) Sean Kuraly is extremely underrated
Even though he has the balance of a baby deer, his impact on the forecheck and in the defensive zone is hard to replace. Fishbowl Kuraly was also a soundtrack of the season for a solid portion of it.
17.) Joakim Nordstrom was…there
Nothing much to see here. Just a winger on a useless third line who had 12 points in 70 games and a plus/minus of 0. Meh.
18.) The David Backes as the enforcer situation didn’t go as bad as it could have
When David Backes first came out and said he was going to be the enforcer, it made a lot of people wonder if he really knew what he was doing given his concussion history. But from what we know, it didn’t seem to do much damage in the short term.
The jury’s still out on the long term.
19.) The David Backes as an offensive winger did go as bad as it could have
When it came to offensive production, Backes just didn’t have his fastball — 20 points in 70 games made that $6 million cap hit smell like a hockey sock.
20.) The David Backes as a locker room guy went well
21.) Jaroslav Halak was the move of the offseason
Jaroslav Halak’s ability to split the net with Tuukka Rask could be what saves Rask for the haul of a long playoff run. His numbers were also better.
22.) Chris Wagner is a close second
Chris Wagner became the Mayor of Walpole after he put 12 pucks in the net on the fourth line. He’s also one of the best, and cleanest, hitters in the NHL.
23.) What did Tuukka Rask really prove?
For the most part, Rask had a great regular season but he didn’t actually prove anything new. If he can get the Bruins past the Lightning in the second round, that’ll be what proves something new in the goalies heavily-ridiculed career. He had another great regular season.
24.) Charlie Coyle’s defensive zone presence is criminally underrated
The amount of scoring chances and passes intercepted by Charlie Coyle right in front of the Boston net is many.
25.) Marcus Johansson was irrelevant
He got injured for most of the regular season, but even in the nine games he played with the Bruins he was just another guy. Three points (one goal) in nine games is tough to consider “relevant”.
26.) Karson Kuhlman looked like he belonged
I’m not sure he’s the longterm solution next to Krejci and DeBrusk but in his time on that line, Karson Kuhlman was very good. He had five points in 11 games and was a solid forechecker. Should be interesting to watch how Cassidy uses him in the playoffs.
27.) The revolving door of young guys who stunk is too many to count
The young guys like Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Peter Cehlarik and a little bit of Trent Frederic were a lot of mediocre and a lot of not following Cassidy’s game plan. They never seemed to pick up on how to play in their own end, which led to third periods spent on the bench.
28.) Urho Vaakanainen left us wanting more
29.) The Bruins have something in Connor Clifton
30.) Steven Kampfer was a good sport
31.) Brad Marchand should be a Hart candidate
He had 100 points for the second-best team in the NHL. This shouldn’t even be a debate.
32.) Bruce Cassidy should be a Jack Adams candidate
It’s almost certain he won’t be because of the New York Islanders, Calgary Flames and Lightning but he still should be considered.
33.) Matt Grzelcyk is such a good puck-moving defenseman
34.) You can never have too many defenseman
Every defenseman missed extended time with some sort of ailment at some point. That doesn’t seem like it will change any time soon.
35.) It’d be great if Charlie Coyle could hit the net
— Boston Bruins on CLNS (@BruinsCLNS) April 3, 2019
36.) Bruce Cassidy isn’t afraid to bench anyone
37.) Brad Marchand’s increased presence on Twitter and Instagram was a legitimate storyline
His chirps at the Maple Leafs, Torey Krug and Joe Haggerty were as transparent as a pro athlete can be. Even better was the fact that they were legitimately funny. A lot of times when anyone in the public eye does anything remotely funny, it generates a lot of fake laughter. This was genuine.
38.) Torey Krug and the rest of the Bruins were great at social media too
It felt like everyone was in on it. Krug clapped back at Marchand numerous times and Pastrnak ripped Leafs goalie Garret Sparks.
39.) NESN broadcast was great but get rid of the second intermission interview with assistant coaches
Mister Rogers couldn’t get Kevin Dean, Jay Pandolfo and Joe Sacco to show any sort of personality. Even though he’s one of the best color analysts in hockey, why does NESN expect Andy Brickley to get anything out of them?
I know NESN wants to make the viewer feel more “apart of the game”, but the only thing those interviews provide for is more time to use the bathroom.
40.) What is the future of Alex Kraemer?
NESN goes through sideline hosts like it’s nothing. Often times, the position is a launching pad to bigger things. The network introduced the position of “rinkside reporter” during the 2003-04 season. Since then, the longest tenured one was Naoko Funayama for five years.
At this point, it’s fair to question how much longer NESN holds onto Kraemer. She’s very knowledgable about the game, is confident on air and does really good interviews. I wonder if she moves on to a bigger job, if NESN moves on because they’re NESN, or if she stays put. Something to follow for sure.
41.) Media rising star: Conor Ryan
Conor Ryan’s really only been on the beat for about a year and a half when he began with MassLive during the 2017-18 season. This past season saw Ryan head to Boston Sports Journal.
Being at BSJ, he’s not exactly dealt an easy hand: the site goes against the Athletic for subscribers and is by no means winning. But Ryan did a really great job of providing interesting story-telling mixed with advanced stats. On Twitter, his presence has increased a lot and he’s moved himself up a tier on the beat.
42.) Joe McDonald is the best pure writer on the beat
He’s a veteran, but Joe McDonald really has found his home at the Athletic. They allow for him to mix his good hunches for game stories with his tremendous ability to tell a story. His writing flows really well and provides for an insightful and enjoyable read. When it comes to writing style and storytelling, he reigns supreme.
43.) Joe Haggerty is still being Joe Haggerty and you’re all falling for it and that’s what makes him good
It’s no secret that no one is hated more in that press box by fans and media alike than Joe Haggerty. But at the same time, no one is better at getting you to click on their stories like Haggerty. He’s been with NBC Sports Boston forever because he gets you to click, watch and react to everything he does. Marchand calling him out helped him way more than it hurt him.
He may not be the best sports writer that ever was, but you most definitely clicked on a bunch of his stories.
44.) Jimmy Murphy has proven his hand at the most important skill in the business today
Jimmy Murphy has experienced lots of changes of scenery over the past few years. But his ability to become a true multimedia journalist is one that few others over the age of 35 have in that press box.
From hosting a weekly podcast, to changing his interview style from audio to video to post to Twitter and YouTube, to then writing stories, no one has the grip on how to truly be multimedia in this new age of journalism quite like Murphy. Not many 44-year-olds would be able to adapt as well as he has.
45.) Ty Anderson dominated Twitter and his website isn’t far behind
Ty Anderson was the biggest Bruins media presence on Twitter throughout the season and his polarization and engagement are leading him down an expected avenue. With his emergence as a personality at 98.5 the Sports Hub, it’s expected he becomes one of the radio stations main voices within the next few years.
He constantly contradicts Michael Felger and it feels as if it’s only a matter of time until he’s on one of the primetime shows. He’s also made it his mission to put the website on par with bigger ones in Boston.
46.) Matt Porter slotted in well at the Boston Globe
The main hockey writer at the Boston Globe will always be Kevin Paul Dupont, but newbie Matt Porter did a solid job of replacing Fluto Shinzawa. His stories were unique and his Twitter presence had a lot more personality than that of many of the other Globies.
47.) Matt Kalman brought good content to a website where Bruins coverage is fourth
Matt Kalman took over the WEEI.com Bruins writer job right before the season began and did a solid job of it. His stories were thought-provoking and since he’s a veteran, he got some quality exclusives. His Twitter presence is as dry as he is but funny nonetheless. His voice next to Ken Laird on “Sunday Skate” worked well. He’s far from the gaudiest member of the Bruins press core, but he’s still a very good one.
48.) The Bruins Beat podcast with Jimmy Murphy and guests is legitimately insightful
Hey, I can have a shameless plug.
But for real, I do believe the podcast is very good. Murphy provides consistent new information on the show and the weekly guests are incredibly knowledgable. News is said every week on it. You just have to listen for it.
49.) Other outlet thoughts
- Bruins Daily does a wonderful job of consistent coverage. Tim Rosenthal is leading the charge while rookie Matt Castle got his first year of experience down and made the most of it.
- Mark Allred is one of the most supportive people on Twitter and you can’t help but love the Black n Gold Hockey squad. They do a great job and their prospect coverage is truly informative.