2021 Thanksgiving: What Bruins fans have to be thankful for

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What Bruins fans have to be thankful for this Thanksgiving originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Thanksgiving has arrived in the United States, and it's a time for everyone to be thankful.

That includes Boston Bruins fans, who have seen their team enjoy plenty of success over the last 10 to 15 years.

Here are five things Bruins fans have to be thankful for this holiday season.

Foundational young stars

The Bruins are lucky to have Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand playing so well late in their careers (more on that below), but they do have a solid foundation of superstar talent to build around for the next decade.

Charlie McAvoy is one of the best defensemen in the league -- top three or five, in fact -- and he's signed for the next nine years. It's so hard to find elite, two-way defenseman who can dominate in all situations. McAvoy leading the blue line gives the Bruins a superstar at one of the most important positions in the sport.

David Pastrnak has developed into one of the league's best goal scorers and has gelled perfectly with Marchand and Bergeron to make up the league's most talented line. No right winger scored more goals than Pastrnak's 106 from 2018-19 through 2020-21.

The Bruins still have plenty of work to do to build a consistent winner whenever the post-Bergeron/Marchand era arrives. But they're off to a pretty good start with McAvoy and Pastrnak already in the fold.

Great coach

Bruce Cassidy is an excellent head coach. His teams play a fundamentally strong game defensively and still are able to score at a solid rate.

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He's not afraid to call out his players, even the stars, and they typically respond quite well when he does it.

Cassidy has posted a 317-194-82 regular season record as Bruins head coach since he took over during the 2016-17 campaign. The Bruins have advanced to the playoffs in each of his five seasons in charge and have won at least one playoff round in four of them.

In an era where coaching changes happen pretty often, the Bruins should be thankful for the stability Cassidy has given them behind the bench.

Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand

Two of the best players in the league give the Bruins stellar play at both ends of the ice on a nightly basis.

What more can be said about Patrice Bergeron? He's one of the greatest Bruins players of all time, a future Hockey Hall of Famer and should have his number retired. Bergeron is 36 years old but still playing at an elite level. He's tallied 15 points in 16 games, continues to dominate on faceoffs, excels on both special teams units and remains a top faceoff player.

Brad Marchand is literally the best left wing in the sport. He's tallied a team-leading 21 points in 16 games, putting him on pace for his sixth consecutive season scoring at or above a point-per-game rate.

Bruins fans are very lucky to have watched these players for over a decade. Several other fanbases have not been as fortunate during that span.

Improving pipeline of prospects

The Bruins don't have an elite prospect pool. Far from it, actually. That said, the group has improved in recent years, which is a sign of exciting progress.

The Bruins' 2021 first-round pick, winger Fabian Lysell, has adapted to the North American game quite well. He's tallied 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in his first 15 games for the WHL's Vancouver Giants. He's scoring goals, battling hard for puck possession and showing impressive playmaking ability. He has top-six forward potential.

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Bruins 2019 first-rounder John Beecher is on a loaded University of Michigan squad and has tallied four points (two goals, two assists) in six games. For a Bruins team desperate for future centers, Beecher is a prospect to keep a close eye on.

Mason Lohrei, a second-round selection in 2020, took a huge step forward last season to establish himself as one of the organization's top prospects. He's continued that ascent with a strong start at Ohio State, where he's posted eight points (two goals, six assists) in 10 games this season. 

The Bruins have some real talent at multiple positions who could challenge for NHL roster spots in the near future. 

A normal NHL schedule, environment

The 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons did not go as planned because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2019-20 campaign had its regular season shortened in March of 2020 and the Stanley Cup Playoffs had to be played in a bubble. The 2020-21 season was shortened to 56 games, and many teams weren't even allowed to have fans for most of the year. 

This season is pretty much back to normal. Fans are in buildings, teams are playing a normal schedule -- Bruins vs. Canadiens is back! -- and a full 82-game slate has returned. The 2020-21 season hadn't even started by Thanksgiving last year.

It's sometimes easy to take these things for granted, but it's certainly nice to be back to a much more normal hockey environment as 2022 approaches.