This seems like the biggest “we’ll see” Bruins season there’s been in a while.
It certainly isn’t the best team they’ve had over the last five years, but they’re nowhere near bad. Even playing in an extremely tough division, this should be a playoff team. I think that’s a positive outlook.
Vegas thinks that isn’t positive enough. The various sportsbooks currently place the Bruins as a top-five Cup contender, with PointsBet giving the Bruins +1200 odds, which is tied with the Leafs for fourth-best odds -- odds provided by our partner, PointsBet Sportsbook.
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Now, the fact that the Leafs are that high should caution you from reading these as any sort of power rankings. Toronto’s likely up there because this year’s format guarantees a Canadian team will reach the conference final.
But back to the Bruins. Sure, their odds are a big dropoff from the top three teams, but fourth seems high, doesn’t it? I think Colorado, Vegas, Tampa, Philly, St. Louis and Washington are all better, plus there’s always a surprise team or two.
Am I overstating the loss of Torey Krug and the uncertainty the Bruins have both on defense and in their middle six?
I don’t think so, but seeing these odds has at least intrigued me. I want to get into Vegas’ mindset and find that level of 2021 Bruins optimism.
Here’s what I’ve got: The Bruins have two good goalies, which can go a long way in a 56-game season. Every game, especially when they’re all divisional games, matters significantly, so being able to spell Tuukka Rask with Jaroslav Halak is big. A team like Washington doesn’t have that certainty in net.
The Bruins’ biggest weakness last season was their middle-six wings. That problem hasn’t been solved, but the B’s are better-suited to fill those spots than they were last season. Let’s call second-line right wing and both third-line wings the positions in question.
Craig Smith is a slam dunk to capably fill one of the right wing spots. Ondrej Kase, who scored 20 goals three seasons ago, is a high-upside scratch ticket the Bruins are hoping will fill the other.
Even in this exercise in optimism, I can’t lie to you and tell you Nick Ritchie looked like a third-liner with the B's last season, but perhaps he just had a bumpy adjustment and has more to give. Maybe Jack Studnicka plays so well in David Pastrnak’s absence that he forces himself into the lineup full-time.
Perhaps Charlie McAvoy takes such a big leap forward this season that it doesn’t matter who’s playing next to him. Maybe the youngsters the Bruins are throwing into the mix on the left side — Jeremy Lauzon and Jakub Zboril, perhaps Urho Vaakanainen at some point — are so good that the Bruins don’t miss a beat from the departures of Krug and Zdeno Chara.
If all these things happen and the Bruins stay generally healthy — that includes Pastrnak’s return from hip surgery — then sure, Vegas has a point and I’m guilty of overreacting to a bad offseason.
I would say “I’m not betting on that,” but I’m not that clever.