Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins officially kick off the 2023-24 regular season on Wednesday night against the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden. Here are five questions we’re thinking about as they get ready to drop the puck…

Can Linus Ullmark repeat?

Oct 3, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) in goal during the second period against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 3, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) in goal during the second period against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins had a deep, balanced, complete roster last season, but the real difference between being an outstanding team and making history was goaltender Linus Ullmark.

Ullmark earned a Vezina Trophy win for his efforts in 2022-23, sidestepping some absurd takes going around about others deserving it more because they merely played more games. But anyone who watched Ullmark play last season could see that he had taken his game to another level. He especially protected the Bruins early in games, saving them (literally) from early barrages by the opposition as they settled in.


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It wouldn’t be fair to expect Ullmark to once again win the goaltending triple crown (wins, goals against average, save percentage). But everything is in place for him to have another excellent season. He’s healthy. He has almost entirely the same defense in front of him. And the Bruins are going to have to lean on a stingy defensive game to hang in there against teams with more offensive firepower, anyway.

The aforementioned health will be key for Ullmark, of course. And the Bruins may end up using a goalie platoon in the playoffs, if and when they make it back. But Ullmark was the biggest difference last season. Can he be the difference between “decent” and “very good” this time around? He may not reach the incredible heights of a year ago, but there’s little reason to believe he can’t have another excellent campaign.

  • Will Pavel Zacha level up (again)?

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 05: Pavel Zacha #18 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers during the first period at Madison Square Garden on October 05, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 05: Pavel Zacha #18 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers during the first period at Madison Square Garden on October 05, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    After seven seasons of underwhelming offensive output for the New Jersey Devils, Pavel Zacha came to Boston and flourished for the first time in his career. GM Don Sweeney bought low on Zacha, signed him for four more seasons at an affordable $4.75 million cap hit, and now he’s locked in as a top-6 center with David Pastrnak on his right wing.

    Zacha crossed both the 40-point and 50-point marks for the first time in his career in year 1 as a Bruin, potting 21 goals and 36 assists, both career-highs. Now primed for a full season centering a line with Pastrnak, and veteran James van Riemsdyk starting the season on the left side, the opportunity’s there for Zacha to further realize the offensive potential that made him the sixth overall pick in a loaded 2015 draft.

    His shot, vision, and creativity are clear as day when watching him on the ice. Zacha should be able to translate that to another solid scoring output. But if he can reach 60 points or more, he could be a difference-maker for a Bruins team that’s in a major transition period at center.

  • What has Hampus Lindholm learned?

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 19: Hampus Lindholm #27 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Florida Panthers during the third period of Game Two of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Panthers defeat the Bruins 6-3. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – APRIL 19: Hampus Lindholm #27 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Florida Panthers during the third period of Game Two of the First Round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on April 19, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Panthers defeat the Bruins 6-3. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Hampus Lindholm is entrenched as a top-4 defenseman for this team, possibly for the full life of the seven seasons remaining on his contract. So, the team has no choice but to hope he comes into his own as a playoff performer, and he has no choice but to prove that last year’s first-round collapse has made him a better player.

    Lindholm went pointless in the Bruins’ seven-game loss to the Florida Panthers last April, but perhaps more concerning was the way he struggled with decision-making, turned the puck over, and failed to reach the level of intensity required to succeed that time of year.

    There’s plenty of time for Lindholm to figure that whole thing out. Unfortunately, the Bruins have to make it back to the playoffs, and so we’ll have to wait until April to find out what he’s learned and what he really has inside himself. There’s reason to believe Lindholm can have another great regular season – 10 goals, 53 points, a league-leading plus-49 – but he needs to prove he can play at that same level in the playoffs, if not elevate himself even higher.

  • How much can Matt Poitras contribute?

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 05: Matthew Poitras #51 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on October 05, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 05: Matthew Poitras #51 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on October 05, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Matt Poitras has been something of a revelation in his first camp with Boston, which has earned him a spot on the roster to begin the season. That isn’t too surprising, because impact players come out of the second round all the time in the NHL. See Bergeron, Patrice.

    But we’re not making any comparisons to No. 37 here. That’s grossly unfair to the 19-year-old Poitras, who just got here and could still be on track to head back to the OHL after a nine-game trial in the NHL. But if Poitras stays, what kind of impact can he make as a rookie who can’t legally buy alcohol?

    Poitras stands at a generous 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, and still has a frame to fill out. He needs to prove he can withstand the physical grind of the top level. But his playmaking ability and hockey instincts have stood out, which is why he’s still in Boston in the first place. It’s just up in the air how much he will be able to contribute as such a green player, and to do it in what’s expected to be a third-line role.

  • How good is the fourth line?

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 05: John Beecher #19 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on October 05, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 05: John Beecher #19 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on October 05, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    One of the sneaky-most exciting developments of the 2023 preseason: 2019 first-round pick Johnny Beecher has finally arrived. And while you may be disappointed that Beecher can’t muster more than a fourth-line role as a former first-rounder, there’s reason to believe that his line will be as exciting to watch as you can expect from a bottom-3.

    Beecher is expected to center a line with returning fan favorite Milan Lucic on his left, and second-year pro Jakub Lauko on his right. The younger Beecher and Lauko have legitimate speed, while Beecher has the size and Lauko has the tenacity to be an absolute pain in the ass on the forecheck. Lucic obviously isn’t known for his speed, as the Bowser to their Toad/Yoshi, but he has a chance to be a fine complement.

    The Bruins’ fourth line projects to be as explosive and tough to play against as it’s been in years. It’s OK to be excited for what Beecher can bring to the table for a team that will need all the help it can get from the forward lines.

  • Click here for complete Boston Bruins coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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