By Aaron Jackson
With the Boston Celtics looking like a true title contender, the Red Sox winning the AL East, and the Patriots an enigma, one New England team hasn’t gotten much love recently; the New England Revolution! Just kidding. I’m talking of course about the Boston Bruins. I have been a vocal critic of just about every decision this team has made over the last 3-4 years, but it appears on paper at least that they’ve finally listened to what I, and most fans, have had to say. This team certainly isn’t perfect, and a playoff spot is far from a guarantee, but I’ll admit I’m actually mildly excited about a team that has a core of vets with a ton of talented rookies around them. Here are five players I’m excited to watch on this year’s team.
- David Pastrnak: The off season was almost ruined with talk of “Pasta” taking his talents to Russia. It would’ve been another example in a long line of mishandled talented young players for the Bruins, but in the end the organization finally got the job done. It feels like he should be hitting his prime now in his 4th season with the Bruins and amazingly the kid is still only 21! Still, Pastrnak made a leap last year, and has the talent to make another this year. Can this kid become the new face of a franchise? We may find out this season.
- Charlie McAvoy: Amazingly Pastrnak isn’t the youngest player on this team! That honor goes to this former Boston University Terrier. McAvoy comes in at just 19 years old, and it doesn’t look like the pressure gets to him much. He’ll have some growing pains to be sure, but this defenseman looks like he could be an all-star for years to come.
- Zdeno Chara: The ageless wonder has put the energizer bunny to shame. At 40, Chara still looks like he can still get it done. The Captain has been one of the most consistent players in the NHL for 14 years now, and despite his size, his body seems to be holding up well. Can he keep being a leader on this team, or will we see his role reduced as the youth come into play? Part of me hopes that they cut his minutes back earlier in the year to save him for a possible postseason run, but I expect he’ll be out there every night playing 23-25 minutes a game.
- Tuukka Rask: Once upon a time Rask was considered an elite goalie that may be near the top of the league for years to come. That promise has never fully be realized, but the 30 year old has continued to be consistent at the very least. It almost felt like while he wouldn’t necessarily win you a ton of games, he also wouldn’t lose you a ton either. Last year saw him post 8 shutouts, the most he’s had in a season, but it also saw him post the second straight season of a .915 save percentage, good for worst in his career. That number is essentially the league average, leaving Rask far from elite. Can he bounce back after a couple of mediocre seasons? Or are we beginning to see a decline that Rask might not be able to shut out?
- Brad Marchand: I mentioned earlier that Zdeno Chara is the leader of this team, but if there was a guy that could take over that role it would be Marchand. He posted a career high 85 points last year, finally taking the next step many had been waiting for since he broke into the lineup in 2010. At 29 we may finally be seeing what the fiery forwards full potential really is. Will that continue, or will Marchand take a step back towards the consistently good player we saw the previous five years? Has he matured enough to be a leader on this team? And how will people pronounce his name, Marsh-hand or Marsh-hawnd?
Aaron Jackson (@AaronRJackson on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.