Bruins Preview: Five bold predictions for 2013-14
Svedberg will eventually be the backup
Chad Johnson won the backup goalie job out of training camp for a few different reasons (waivers, cheaper salary cap hit), but none of them were because he was the better goaltender. Johnson deserves a chance to establish himself, and he won that opportunity with a shutout against the Detroit Red Wings, but that was an 18-save performance with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg scratched from the preseason lineup. Svedberg dominated in both games he played, was the best goalie in camp from beginning to end, and appears to be just scratching the surface of his potential at 24 years old. The Bruins believe Svedberg could benefit from more development time while sharing starts with Malcolm Subban at the AHL level, but I suspect Johnson will hit a rough patch this season trying to establish himself as an NHL goaltender. If it gets to the point where they start spreading Tuukka Rask thin because of the backup situation, Svedberg could become the guy to settle in as Rask’s No. 2 later in the season. Either way, the Swedish backstop will be in Boston before too long.
Seidenberg will be elsewhere after the season
I hope I’m wrong about this one because the 32-year-old defenseman is everything you want a hockey player to be: tough, modest, team-oriented, clutch and always accountable. But he’s also taken quite a beating while playing such a physical style and he’ll be 33 years old entering next season as he approaches unrestricted free agency. It seemed like he did wear down a bit toward the end of last year’s playoff run, and that’s something to watch given the heavy minutes he plays. More damning than that is the large group of talented, inexpensive defensemen that's coming through the system for the Bruins. Players like Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Zach Trotman are the future of the Bruins, and that means established, dependable veterans like Seidenberg (like Andrew Ference this summer) will be getting paid elsewhere to provide veteran leadership to teams that need it. The salary cap should be going up next year and beyond, though, so perhaps there is some hope the German tank can remain in Black and Gold.
Krejci will be a point-per-game player
The B’s playmaking center has 29 goals and 73 points in 81 career playoff games to go along with a plus-31 rating, and it’s time the Czech Republic center put up the same kind of numbers during the regular season. With a motivated Milan Lucic on his left side and the consistent finishing force, Jarome Iginla, on his right side, Krejci could be at the controls of the most dangerous offensive line he’s been a part of since arriving in Boston. He’s averaged 62 points a year in each of the last four full seasons with the Bruins, and that’s nothing to sneeze at given the rigors of the NHL regular season. Some will argue that a Claude Julien-coached team will never have point-per-game players given the defense-based system. But let’s not forget that Marc Savard had 88 points in 82 games during the 2008-09 season for Julien. Perhaps giving Krejci an “A” on his B’s sweater as an alternate captain will coax just a little more consistency and greater production out of a player that’s gaining in reputation given his playoff body of work. The B’s coaching staff clearly wants Krejci to shoot the puck more, and an improved power play this season could absolutely help boost up the season stats for No. 46.
Caron will be traded
The 22-year-old former first round pick made the Bruins out of training camp after pulling himself together toward the end, and cinched his NHL roster spot by scoring a goal in Friday night’s preseason finale. But he also cracked the NHL roster to start the season because he wasn’t expected to clear through waivers, and the Bruins aren’t ready to lose an asset that still has value around the NHL. Expect the Bruins to hold onto Caron through the start of the season, and then perhaps look to peddle him once injuries take a bit out of other team’s forward depth. Caron is big, strong and defensively responsible while also completely willing to work, and the sense is he might just need a change of scenery to unlock his potential. It doesn’t seem likely to happen in Boston where he’s had some low points over the last few years, but then again it appears a Carl Soderberg injury might put him in the opening night lineup against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Who thought that would have been possible when he absolutely self-destructed in a poor preseason game vs. the Red Wings in training camp less than a month ago?
Krug will win the Calder Trophy
The 22-year-old defenseman still qualifies as a rookie after only playing a couple of regular season games and 15 games during last season’s playoff run. It was enough to establish the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder as a legit NHL defenseman with superb skating speed, good passing instincts, and a howitzer slap shot from the point that became a big PP weapon during the postseason. Krug and Jarome Iginla look like the two biggest reasons why the Bruins will have an improved power play this season, and that means there will be plenty of assists in the young blueliner’s future. While players like Seth Jones and Aleksander Barkov would appear to have a better pedigree to win the award given their lottery selection in last year’s draft, the undrafted Krug just continues to impress while proving doubters wrong. He’ll have to prove he can withstand the pounding that comes with an 82-game regular season and consistently handle things in the defensive zone against bigger, stronger opponents. But if he can do both of those things, then nobody is doubting whether he can produce points and offense at the NHL level that will turn the attention of Calder voters when the time comes. The 13 goals and 45 points posted last year at an AHL level stocked with locked-out talent give a glimpse of what might be coming from Krug.