The $9 million question for the Boston Bruins is whether they’ve done enough on the back end after it was a clear and present problem during last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs.
With Kevan Miller and Brandon Carlo knocked out of the lineup against the New York Islanders, there were times when Charlie McAvoy had to carry the entire Bruins back end as Isles players chipped away at him physically over the six game series. Clearly McAvoy was brilliant during the entire playoffs for the B’s and was arguably their best player while finishing up with 12 points in 11 games while topping 26 minutes of ice time per game.
But McAvoy was also minus-5 in the last three games, all losses, against the Islanders as the Bruins fell in that series. It felt like the Islanders did a successful job of wearing him down over time without fear that other B’s defenders were going to make them pay. The Islanders were able to stifle smaller D-men like Grzelcyk and Mike Reilly with their Identity Line’s bruising style of play, and a consistent approach to make Boston’s defensemen pay the price. Once bigger, stronger bodies like Carlo and Miller, that routinely retrieved pucks as heavy forecheck contact was coming, were removed from the equation, the job was made that much easier.
The offseason made matters worse as the rugged, intimidating Miller retired due the physical toll on his body during a seven season NHL career, and the big, strong Jeremy Lauzon was plucked away during the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. The Bruins lost their muscle, snarl and backbone with Miller and Lauzon gone, so a couple of things became very clear: A) the Bruins absolutely needed to make sure they locked up Carlo for the foreseeable future as the last shutdown defenseman standing and B) they needed to add back end beef.
They did exactly that with free agent defenseman Derek Forbort.