The Boston Bruins Can Win With a Defense-First Approach This Season

Photo by Nathan Denette/Associated Press

The Boston Bruins have been one of the most discussed NHL teams this offseason. After their record-breaking season in 2022-23, shocking early exit from the playoffs, and numerous roster changes in the offseason, the questions are aplenty heading into 2023-24. It’s almost certain the Bruins won’t be as insanely good as they were last season, but they are still a very solid hockey team. They may just need to tweak their approach to win in 2023-24.

Last season, the Bruins were the second-best offensive team in the league, scoring 3.67 goals per game. They also were the best defensive team, giving up just 2.12 goals-against per game. With the offseason departures of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Taylor Hall, and Tyler Bertuzzi, there is no doubt the Bruins offense isn’t going to be the same this year. However, their defense and goaltending remain almost completely intact, and that is where the Bruins should focus to be successful this season.

Keep the puck out of our net! That should be the primary goal for Boston this year. They may have lost some talent and point production up front, but they are still loaded on the back end and have arguably the best goaltending tandem in the NHL.

Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman combined to win the Jennings Trophy last season with the fewest goals against in the league. Ullmark also won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender. While they may not repeat the same level of success they achieved last season, this tandem should once again be one of the best in the NHL.

Once again, the Bruins’ defense should also be stout. Charlie McAvoy is a perennial Norris Trophy candidate. Hampus Lindholm is coming off the best year of his career and looking to do it again. Brandon Carlo, while inconsistent, can be a true shutdown D-man when he’s on his game. Matt Grzelcyk is underrated at both ends of the ice. Derek Forbort and Kevin Shattenkirk make up a solid, veteran third pair. The depth is also there for Boston, with Ian Mitchell, Jakub Zboril, Mason Lohrei, and a slew of others fighting for NHL minutes.

The Boston Bruins were exceptional in every facet of the game in 2022-23. It’s unlikely the same level of offense will be there in 2023-24. However, the defense and goaltending should still be top-tier. As long as the Bruins remain one of the best teams in terms of goals against, they should be able to have a successful season.

In recent years, there have been numerous examples of teams making the playoffs with a defense-first approach. Just last season, the Minnesota Wild were 23rd in the NHL offensively with 2.91 goals per game. However, they were 6th best defensively with only 2.67 goals-against per game and finished with 46 wins and 103 points.

In 2021, the New York Islanders had the 21st-ranked offense with 2.71 goals per game. They had the second-best defense, though, with 2.23 goals-against per game, and they made the playoffs.

In 2019-20, the Dallas Stars finished 3rd in the Central Division despite having the 26th-ranked offense, scoring just 2.58 goals per game. They won largely because they only allowed 2.52 goals-against per game, which was 2nd best in the NHL.

The Boston Bruins will not score as much as they did last season, but their goals against should be one of the lowest in the league. That level of defense should be enough for the team to have a successful season. I don’t expect the Bruins to be nearly as good as they were in 2022-23, but I do expect them to make the playoffs, and I expect them to do it with a defense-first mentality.

Bruins Benders Live. First Round Game 1 Recap Bruins Benders Podcast

The Bruins take Game 1 with a convincing 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. Jeremy Swayman with 35 saves. Jake DeBrusk with two power play goals. The Benders discuss why the Bruins were able to handle Toronto to take a 1-0 series lead!
  1. Bruins Benders Live. First Round Game 1 Recap
  2. Season 3. Episode 25. Playoff Preview
  3. Season 3. Episode 24. Maroon and Gold Day
  4. Season 3. Episode 23. Whoa Nelly!
  5. Season 3. Episode 22. Montgomery Burns

Jonathan Duncan

Jonathan Duncan is a lifelong hockey fan. He has covered the NHL, via video content, since 2017 on his YouTube channel Off the Wall Hockey. He has also produced written content for Overtime Heroics and now Inside the Rink.

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