The Capitals will be playing in the new East Division in 2021. We are looking at each division opponent leading up to the season.
F Greg McKegg, F Craig Smith,
D Zdeno Chara, D Torey Krug
The Bruins won the Presidents' Trophy last year so it is easy just to assume they are going to be among the top teams in the East, but this team has some major question marks.
Gone are defensemen Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara. Chara has been the captain since 2006, but Krug is definitely the bigger on-ice loss at this point. Krug was the top left defenseman on the team, a good two-way player and the quarterback of the power play. A Boston team that ranked ninth in goals per game ranked second in the league on the power play revealing just how critical the extra man was to the Bruins' offense. Matt Grzelcyk will be looked upon to make a major jump in his production, but even if he does, the left side of the defense will still be a major question mark.
Without Krug, the top three left defensemen will most likely be Jeremy Lauzon, Grzelcyk and John Moore. Does that look like a championship-caliber defense to you? Boston also boasts a number of highly-touted left defensemen prospects and they will certainly be called upon at some point because I have a hard time believing the Bruins are going to be OK with this defense as it is currently constructed.
The good news is that Boston still has one of the best goalie tandems in the NHL in Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. The only people who don't recognize Rask as on of the top goalies in the league is Bruins fans. Those netminders can help the defense to a degree, but I still feel the blue line is a major weakness.
Offensively, there is also major question about the health of two of its top players. Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak both underwent surgery in September to repair a sports hernia and a hip, respectively. Marchand looks like he might be ready for camp and the start of the season, but Pastrnak's timetable is five months meaning he could mist the first month of the season.
The defense is going to be an issue this year for Boston. Everyone likes the addition of Smith, but he won't make up for the loss of Krug on the power play or Pastrnak to start the season. Given how condensed the season is and that it is only 56 games, Boston is going to find itself behind the eight-ball early on in the season. The roster has the playmakers to battle back, but they are going to be closer to a bubble team than they are the Presidents' Trophy.
The Bruins are not going to be among the leaders of the East. They will either just manage to squeak into the top four and make the playoffs, or they will fall just short.