That truly, I mean truly, should not be considered an outrageous opinion, certainly not among the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Yes, the returns of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci signify a dependence on aging veterans, and this may be their real, actual final run at a Stanley Cup championship. Yes, they need to stay afloat for the first 6-8 weeks of the regular season without arguably their two best and most important players (Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy).
But even with “only” Bergeron, Krejci, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, Hampus Lindholm, and Jeremy Swayman as their core, they are going to be good. They just are. They do not and will not suck.
However, “good” doesn’t usually win you a Stanley Cup. That would require greatness. So if the Bruins realistically want to be the last team standing in mid-June, they need to be a great team. And to become a great team, they’re going to need at least one more player to POP.
Define “pop” however you want. But the point is, they’ve come up short in the playoffs with Marchand, McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and David Pastrnak in the past. Someone else needs to elevate to the level of the core, to be considered their equal or better. Even just one loud POP could make a big difference.
Aug 23, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) celebrates with center David Krejci (46) and center Patrice Bergeron (37) after scoring a goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in game one of the second round of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
But who needs to be the one doin’ the poppin’? That’s a topic Ty Anderson and I tackled in the latest episode of the Sports Hub Underground podcast, which you can listen to above. We named three players, in particular, who could transform the team in a major way if they took a big step forward.
“I think we’re in agreement, here, that this team is gonna be pretty good,” Anderson said. “But what needs to happen, is they need another guy to pop. To go from good to great, they need a guy to pop.”
Here are the three main guys we mentioned on the podcast…
Apr 26, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Hall (71) celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
The ceiling of other, younger forwards on the Bruins’ roster remains an enigma. And so does Hall himself, to an extent. But we already know that Hall is capable of delivering a Hart Trophy-caliber year, as evidenced by the 2017-18 season, when he won the Hart Trophy.
Hall may be far from a legitimate contender for that award at this stage of his career, but can he get closer to a point-per-game level of production? He scored 20 goals and 61 points last season. Can he get back to the 70-80 range, with a full season on a line with Krejci and Pastrnak?
The Bruins might need it. Because unless you’re banking on Charle Coyle, Craig Smith, Pavel Zacha, Jack Studnicka, or Trent Frederic to suddenly go 30-40, Hall is a much safer bet to make an offensive jump.
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 30: Scott Laughton #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers defends Brandon Carlo #25 of the Boston Bruins during the second period of the preseason game at TD Garden on September 30, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Carlo has yet to play at the level, even defensively, that he did in 2018-19, when he was arguably Boston’s best overall defenseman on their run to the Cup Final. He’s struggled with injuries in recent years, but he’s also been way more mistake-prone, especially in his own end and the neutral zone.
He’s never going to be a big point producer from the blue line, but a healthy Carlo who returns to his 2019 form would be a huge help for a B’s defense in desperate need of impact players beyond McAvoy.
“It’s been a multi-year regression for him now,” Ty said of Carlo. “Injuries have played a factor. I think poor-fitting pairing partners have played a factor as well. But they need Brandon Carlo to be what he was in 2018-19 … they need that guy back.”
For Carlo, it could also be a matter of a new voice helming the operation. He seems like he should be on the list of players that Montgomery needs to tap into for the Bruins to have big success in 2023. And he might need to do it by not relying on him too much, which Bruce Cassidy seemed to do, which wore Carlo down.
Feb 10, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) skates in on goal while Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin (74) pursues during the third period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Of all the players who need to produce now that Cassidy is gone, DeBrusk easily ranks at the top.
He’s likely to get top-six minutes, and there’s little reason to believe Montgomery won’t leave him on Bergeron’s right wing. The combo paid dividends offensively, as DeBrusk scored 18 goals in his final 34 games last season, mostly at right wing with Bergeron and Marchand.
DeBrusk has already topped 25 goals twice in his career. In a full season flanking an elite center-wing duo, can he get to 30? If he produces like he did on the top line in 2021-22, he’ll have a great chance to do it.
Jun 7, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) makes a save against the New York Islanders during the third period of game five of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
— G Jeremy Swayman: If the 23-year-old makes an Igor Shesterkin-esque leap to the elite, a healthy Bruins team could get back to the Stanley Cup Final.
— F Charlie Coyle: Can the guy get to 60 points for once in his life? Getting that out of your third-line center (possibly top-6 while Marchand’s out) would be huge.
— F Pavel Zacha: He does have a good shot and could have opportunities for big minutes early in the season. A career year for the former No. 6 overall pick would benefit both him and the team greatly.
— F Jack Studnicka: Was Cassidy just being a big meanie and holding Studnicka back this whole time? His first season under new Head Coach Jim Montgomery will be telling.
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. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at email@example.com.