BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Bruins are looking ahead at a new season, not back at the one where they posted the best record in NHL history and then lost in the first round of the playoffs.
“My rear-view mirror is broken,” team president Cam Neely said as the 2023 Presidents Trophy winners opened training camp. “You certainly can learn from the past, and take some things away from that. But the page has turned, and we’ve got a new season coming up.”
A year after setting NHL records with 65 wins and 135 points, the Bruins think they are primed for a run at the Stanley Cup. They’d have to do it without captain and six-time Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron, who has retired along with scoring threat David Krejčí
“People on the outside might view it as a void (considering) what other people and great players had done in the past,” general manager Don Sweeney said. “That’s evolution that every team goes through. We’re fortunate enough to have players that are really excited about that opportunity.”
Brad Marchand replaced Bergeron as captain and returns to an offense that still has Hart Trophy runner-up David Pastrnak. Charlie McAvoy anchors a blue line that added veteran Kevin Shattenkirk to six returning defensemen.
And in goal, Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark is back after winning 40 games last season with a 1.89 goals-against average; Jeremy Swayman, who went 24-6-4 with a 2.24 GAA, is back as the backup once again.
“The expectations, they don’t change,” Sweeney said. “We didn’t expect to win 65 games last year I don’t expect to win 65 this year. But, I do expect us to be a highly competitive team from Day 1 and to take the approach that we’re going to be a tough out each and every night and wear that jersey with pride. That’s what this organization is trying to stand for.”
Bergeron had toyed with retirement before, but he decided to return for one last run a year ago. Krejčí, who spent 2021-22 playing in his native Czechia, also signed on for another year.
With Jim Montgomery replacing Bruce Cassidy as coach, the team responded with a record-breaking campaign, surpassing the record of 62 wins that had been held by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. The record of 132 points had stood since the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, though rules changes made it easier to come by.
It all did Boston little good when it met with the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs.
The Bruins opened a 3-1 lead before Florida forced a decisive seventh game, Boston led 3-2 before Brandon Montour tied it with 1 minute left in regulation. Carter Verhaeghe scored midway through the first overtime to oust the stunned Bruins.
Sweeney called it “scar tissue.”
“And it exists in each and every one of us. We take the disappointment and apply it going forward,” he said. “We’ve fallen short, and last year’s a great example of that. . … Eyes are forward, everybody has a job to do and there are expectations that come along with them.”
The good news for the Bruins: The record-setting Red Wings and Lightning also failed to deliver on their unprecedented seasons, with Tampa Bay losing in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, just like Boston. But each went on to win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles the next two seasons.
Marchand isn’t looking back – or forward.
“I really don’t get caught up in thinking about things down the road. A perfect example is last year,” he said. “You can’t get caught up in what’s ahead of you, and you’ve got to be in the moment.
“I’m so grateful for this moment right now, and for each and every day that’s about to come up,” he said. “There’s so much to do with the interim — like right now — that I can’t even think down the road.”
AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl
Jimmy Golen, The Associated Press