The Boston Bruins were the fourth-best team in the Atlantic Division and yet they still finished 32 points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings.
The wide gap between the two teams is evident in every statistical category. The Bruins ranked fourth in goals-against average (2.66) and the Red Wings were 31st (3.78). Boston’s goal-differential was +35 and Detroit was at -82. The Patrice Bergeron-led Bruins gave up the fewest number of high danger scoring chances. They surrendered 6.83 high dangerous chances per game. By contrast, the Red Wings were last in that category They surrendered 10.7 high danger chances per contest.
The Bruins were better on the power play, penalty kill and in the faceoff circle. In fact, the Bruins were the third-best faceoff team in the NHL last season.
It seems clear that the first step in the Red Wings’ quest to qualify for the playoffs and be a contending team is to move past the Bruins. Based on last season’s results, that would be a major undertaking. While it seems unlikely the Red Wings will blow past the Bruins in 2022-23, here are eight reasons they could push the Bruins for a playoff spot.
1. Patrice Bergeron Contemplating Retirement
Bergeron will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has indicated he will sign with the Bruins or retire. If he retires, the Bruins lose their captain, an offensive catalyst and the NHL’s best defensive forward. Even if he stays with Boston, he turns 37 in July. How much longer will he be a difference-maker?
2. Coach Bruce Cassidy is Out
Not sure anyone truly understands why Bruins’ management swept him out. The Bruins, if you prorate the 56-game season, are in the midst of a five-year run of 100-plus point seasons. Cassidy is a proven defensive-minded coach.
You can anticipate the Bruins will hire a another veteran coach, but coaching is now an unknown variable. The new coach will institute a new system, just like the new Red Wings coach will. What if the Detroit players adjust better to their new coach?
3. Bruins Start the 2022-23 Season With Injuries
Defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk, plus Brad Marchand could be out until December after undergoing surgery this offseason. Defensemen Mike Reilly and Bergeron will also be coming off injuries when training camp starts.
McAvoy and Grzelcyk each had successful shoulder surgery and Mike Reilly had successful surgery to repair a right ankle tendon repair and remove bone fragments. Marchand had both hips repaired.
Charlie McAvoy underwent left shoulder surgery with the expected recovery time to be six months. Boy, the first couple months of next season are not looking great for the Black and Gold
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) June 3, 2022
4. The Bruins Need More Goals
The Bruins were an average offensive team last season, and they need to find some scoring. It will be critical in the first few months when the team is dealing with injuries.
5. Boston Management Seems Dysfunctional
Something is off with the Cam Neely/Don Sweeney management dynamic. Cassidy’s firing was not handled well. It doesn’t seem like everyone is on the same page in Boston.
6. Not Much Salary Cap Space Left for Bruins
The Bruins need to sign Bergeron and make improvements. They only have $2 million left under the cap. Someone else may have to go, although they will have some players on long-term injured reserve at the start of the season
7. Red Wings Will be Improved
Detroit GM Steve Yzerman was unhappy with the team’s lack of competitiveness down the stretch. He seems determined to upgrade this team, particularly defensively. He’s in the market for a proven center and another scorer. It would be surprising if this team isn’t significantly improved next season. Moritz Seider will be improved, as will Lucas Raymond. Simon Edvinsson will be here.
8. Buffalo Sabres Will Also be Improved
We might start to see some parity in the fourth, fifth and sixth place in the Atlantic. These teams could start beating each other.