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Murphy: Good Start For Bruins, But Outlook Hasn’t Changed

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Boston Bruins

What you’ve seen from the Boston Bruins so far in this young 2023-24 NHL regular season is likely what you’ll see until at least the 2024 NHL Trade Deadline on March 8.

The Boston Bruins are off to a 2-0-0 start after grinding out a 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks last Wednesday and a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators this past Saturday. That grinding, hard-working, defensive style was the motto throughout training camp and the preseason after an offseason that saw the salary cap-squeezed Bruins lose plenty of skill and offense via the NHL trade market and NHL free agency.

The most noticeable departures obviously came up the middle as longtime Bruins centers Patrice Bergeron (27 goals, 31 assists) and David Krejci (16 goals, 40 assists) retired, and veteran faceoff and penalty kill guru Tomas Nosek left via unrestricted free agency, signing with the New Jersey Devils.

The Bruins also lost veteran wingers Taylor Hall (16 goals, 20 assists) and Nick Foligno in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. 2023 NHL Trade Deadline acquisitions Tyler Bertuzzi (5 goals, 5 assists in seven games during the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs) and defenseman Dmitry Orlov (8 assists in seven playoff games) left via free agency to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes, respectively.

That still left Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney against the salary cap and forced him to go bargain hunting on the NHL trade and free agent markets. Sweeney acquired defensemen Ian Mitchell, Alec Regula, and Reilly Walsh on the NHL trade market. He then signed Jesper Boqvist, Patrick Brown, Morgan Geekie, Milan Lucic, Jayson Megna, Anthony Richard, Kevin Shattenkirk, and James van Riemsdyk on the free-agent market.

Sweeney also signed forwards Alex Chiasson and Danton Heinen to professional tryouts. Chiasson was released towards the end of training camp, and Heinen is still practicing with the team and seemingly awaiting a contract offer from Sweeney.

Even after all that, the Bruins are still up against the salary cap and hamstrung until likely the weeks heading into the trade deadline. Unless Sweeney makes a cap space-clearing trade before then. As reported here last Monday, Don Sweeney did gauge the NHL trade market to keep rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei on his NHL roster and gain some much-needed salary cap space.

Defensemen Derek Forbort (one year left at $3M AAV) and Matt Grzelcyk (one year left at $3.6M AAV) are two names that continue to be bandied about on the NHL trade rumor wire. Both are still on the Bruins roster, and the feeling here is they will remain with the team until at least Thanksgiving. That means the Bruins have about $538,495 in cap space for now. So, even if the Bruins were to sweep this upcoming road trip and storm through the early parts of the season here, there’s still not going to be any wiggle room cap-wise, and hence, reinforcements from the NHL trade market likely won’t be coming before the weeks leading into the trade deadline.

This is why most NHL pundits and oddsmakers aren’t giving the Boston Bruins much chance in the 2023-24 regular season.

Most online betting odds have the Boston Bruins at 16-1 to win the 2024 Stanley Cup. The Carolina Hurricanes are the Cup favorites at 7-1.

The Boston Bruins were 8-1 to win the Eastern Conference and 15-4 to win the Atlantic Division.

While this puck scribe thinks there’s no way they even come close to replicating last season’s record-breaking 65-12-5 mark from last season, I think they will be better than most believe. They will also play seven more playoff games than they did last season.

With that being said, I stand by these predictions and NHL betting suggestions:

Record: 48-28-6, 102 points (Over 101 points at -105)

Most Points: David Pastrnak, 98 points (Hart Trophy at +1200, Art Ross Trophy at +950)

Most Goals: Davis Pastrnak, 50 goals (Rocket Richard Trophy at +750)

Most Assists: Brad Marchand, 69 Assists

MVP: Charlie McAvoy

Breakout Player: Matt Poitras (15g, 40 assists) (Calder Trophy at +50000)

Unsung Hero: Charlie Coyle (23g, 42a)

Bold Prediction 1: Charlie McAvoy (15g, 52a) will finish second in the Norris Trophy voting. (Norris Trophy at +1000)

Bold Prediction 2: Jeremy Swayman (29-14-2) plays more games and finishes with more wins than Linus Ullmark (19-14-4)

(Vezina Trophy for Swayman at +9000 and Ullmark at +1800)

Bold Prediction 3: Jake DeBrusk scores 33 goals

Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery is +2000 to win the Jack Adams Award, but I don’t see Montgomery repeating this season. That award will go to Arizona Coyotes André Tourigny at a whopping +10000!

Here are my NHL Predictions:

Eastern Conference

Adams Division: 1.) Toronto Maple Leafs (+170)  2.) Buffalo Sabres (+1200 3.) Boston Bruins (+240)

Metro Division: 1.) New York Rangers (+330) 2.) Carolina Hurricanes (+175) 3.) New Jersey Devils (+195)

WC 1: Ottawa Senators

WC2: Pittsburgh Penguins

Western Conference 

Central Division: 1.) Colorado Avalanche (+125) 2.) Minnesota Wild (+650) 3.) Dallas Stars (+175)

Pacific Division: 1.) Edmonton Oilers (+210) 2.) Vegas Golden Knights (+160) 3.) Calgary Flames (+850)

WC1: Los Angeles Kings

WC2: Arizona Coyotes

Eastern Conference Final: Leafs (+550) Over Rangers (+750) in 5

Western Conference Final: Avalanche (+500) Over Golden Knights (+600) in 7

Stanley Cup Final: Leafs (+500) over Avalanche (+1000) in 7

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