Boston Bruins

Bruins Year in Review 2022: Eventful 12 Months Set Stage for Promising 2023

Bruins Year in Review 2022: Eventful 12 months set stage for promising 2023 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins had a very eventful year in 2022.

It included them getting bounced in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a dramatic Game 7, hiring a new head coach, seeing the return of a franchise icon and beginning the new 2022-23 season in historic fashion. But that's just a sampling of the notable events from the past 12 months.

Let's reflect on the year that was by revisiting the top Bruins storylines of 2022.

B's dominate second half of 2021-22 season after bumpy start

The Bruins had a very tough start to the 2021-22 season. From Opening Night through Dec. 31, the B's were 16th in points percentage with a 14-10-2 record. David Pastrnak had scored just eight goals up until that point. Newly acquired goalie Linus Ullmark looked like a disappointment. The B's had to take a two-week break in December because a lot of players were battling COVID-19.

But once the calendar turned to 2022, everything changed for the better in Boston.

Despite a condensed schedule with few off days, the Bruins went 37-16-3 from Jan. 1. through the end of the regular season. Only the Colorado Avalanche and Florida Panthers had a better record over that span. B's head coach Bruce Cassidy installing Erik Haula as the second-line center helped Pastrnak and Taylor Hall score more goals. Ullmark and rookie Jeremy Swayman played much better in net. Jake DeBrusk scored goals at a much more consistent rate as well.

From Nicholas Goss on April 5Pastrnak and Hall were bound to see their scoring go up at some point, but there's no question Haula has been an excellent fit between them and has done a tremendous job feeding these wingers the puck in spots where they can do plenty of damage.

"I try to create room for them," Haula said after scoring twice against the Blue Jackets. "I try to get them the puck in areas where they can make plays. If it's coming with speed or whatever it is, I try to put them in spots where they can use that skill and can use that speed. I think that's worked well for me, trying to do that and trying to create space.

"But then also being part of it as well. There's opportunities for me to put up points and score goals from all of that. I'm enjoying playing with them. It's a lot of fun -- two great players. Just trying to do my best and trying to do what really works."

The Bruins finished the regular season as the first wild card playoff team, setting up a first-round matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Don Sweeney takes another huge swing at trade deadline

Don Sweeney has made at least one move near the trade deadline every year since taking over as Bruins general manager in 2015. The 2022 trade deadline was no exception as Sweeney acquired star defenseman Hampus Lindholm and AHL defenseman Kodie Curran from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 second-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick, defenseman John Moore and defenseman Urho Vaakanainen.

The Bruins quickly re-signed Lindholm to an eight-year extension worth $52 million

Injuries limited Lindholm to 10 regular season games, and he missed three playoff games due to a concussion. He wasn't able to really find his footing as a result. However, he's been fantastic to begin the 2022-23 campaign with 27 points in 35 games.

Lindholm did an excellent job filling in for Charlie McAvoy as the team's No. 1 defenseman while the BU product missed the start of the 2022-23 season rehabbing from offseason surgery.

From Nicholas Goss on Nov. 28, 2022Now that McAvoy is healthy, the Bruins are in the enviable position of having two legit No. 1 defensemen. It will be a huge advantage for Boston in the playoffs.

Frustrating first-round exit

The Bruins avoided the Atlantic Division bracket and didn't have to play the Presidents' Trophy-winning Florida Panthers, two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning or the talented Toronto Maple Leafs over the first two rounds.

It didn't matter, though, because the Carolina Hurricanes proved to be a very difficult first-round opponent.

The story of the series was home/road splits.

The Bruins lost all four games in Carolina, including a 3-2 loss in Game 7 that ended their season. Boston's top three forwards -- Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak -- were unable to consistently produce offensively on the road.

From Nick Goss on May 14The Bruins spent a good chunk of money in free agency over the last two offseasons to address this scoring depth issue. The players who general manager Don Sweeney brought in failed to produce in the most important game of the season and the series overall.

  • Erik Haula: 0 G, 0 A, 1 SOG in Game 7 (1 G, 2 A, 9 SOG in the series)
  • Nick Foligno: 0 G, 0 A, 1 SOG in Game 7 (0 G, 1 A, 6 SOG in the series)
  • Tomas Nosek: 0 G, 0 A, 0 SOG in Game 7 (0 G, 2 A, 5 SOG in the series)
  • Craig Smith: 0 G, 0 A, 0 SOG in Game 7 (0 G, 0 A, 13 SOG in the series)

Even though the Hurricanes were a good team and deserved to win the series, it was still a pretty frustrating result for a Bruins team that was better than what it showed during the series. 

Bruce Cassidy fired as head coach, replaced by Jim Montgomery

Although the Hurricanes loss was disappointing, it didn't seem like something that would cost head coach Bruce Cassidy his job. Well, less than a month after that series defeat, the Bruins announced on June 6 that Cassidy had been fired. Reasons for his firing included not meeting expectations in the playoffs, a failure to develop younger players, needing to score more at 5-on-5 and just giving the players a different voice.

Most of the reaction to this move was negative and, given Cassidy's performance in Boston -- six playoff appearances in six seasons and one win away from a title in 2019 -- it was hard to see how this move made the franchise better.

From Nick Goss on June 6: The Bruce Cassidy era in Boston is over, and the Bruins are worse off because of it.

Not my best take, huh?

By the time the Bruins found Cassidy's replacement, most of the top coaches available had already been hired. The B's decided on Jim Montgomery over other candidates like David Quinn, and Sweeney deserves a ton of credit for this decision.

Montgomery is running away with the Jack Adams Award as the league's coach of the year. He has transformed the Bruins into a faster, more aggressive and more confident team. His system has given the defensemen more freedom offensively. The special teams units are more effective, too.

NHL analyst Gary Lawless to NBC Sports Boston on Dec. 5"When I heard Jim Montgomery’s name in a couple of places, and they didn’t hire him, and then Boston made its move a little later on and fired Bruce, and then hired Jim, I thought the teams that didn’t hire Jim missed out. I think he’s really innovative, players respond to him.

"He’s gone through some adversity off the ice, and those people who get through those situations often have a humility about themselves and they’re also reinvigorated. They know they’re getting a second chance and want to take advantage of it. I think Jim Montgomery is a really, really good coach."

Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci return

The entire Bruins offseason pretty much hinged on whether Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci returned. Fortunately for the B's, Bergeron decided not to retire and Krejci came back to Boston after spending the 2021-22 season playing in his native Czech Republic. Both players signed one-year, incentive-laden contracts. All of a sudden, the Bruins had their captain back and a real No. 2 center in Krejci.

From Nick Goss on Aug. 8Even if you think a rebuild is the right path for the Bruins, going down that road in 2022-23 never made a ton of sense. The team is too good to be a bottom feeder in the Eastern Conference next season.There are too many quality players on the roster, and many of them have no-movement or no-trade clauses in their contracts.

Tearing it down would take time, so why not run it back and chase another deep playoff run? This is what the Bruins are doing, and that vision became crystal clear Monday morning when the team announced Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci have signed one-year contracts full of incentives that could push a portion of their salary cap hits to 2023-24.

Historic start sparks hopes of another Stanley Cup title

The Bruins could not have asked for a better start to the 2022-23 season. They have a league-best 28-4-3 record entering Saturday's road game against the Buffalo Sabres, which is Boston's final matchup of 2022.

The strong start has been a well-rounded effort, too. The B's lead the league with 133 goals scored and they've allowed only 75 goals -- 11 fewer than the next-best team. Linus Ullmark has established himself as the Vezina Trophy favorite by leading all goalies in wins, save percentage and GAA.">@Icebeardude) just reminding everyone why he leads the League in goalie wins. 🤯

📺: @NHL_On_TNT ➡️ #NHLonTNT

— NHL (@NHL) <a href="

David Pastrnak has tallied 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists) in 35 games and is on pace to score 50 goals for the first time. The B's set a new NHL record with a 14-game win streak at home to begin the campaign. They still haven't lost in regulation at TD Garden (18-0-2)

It hasn't been all sunshine and rainbows for the B's, though. Pastrnak still hasn't signed an extension and could hit free agency in July. The Mitchell Miller fiasco in November was a horrible look for the Bruins and a failure by the franchise on so many levels.

But overall, few teams in league history have started a season in more impressive fashion than the 2022-23 Bruins. As a result, nothing less than a Stanley Cup title will be accepted as a successful season-ending result. Given the age and contractual situations of some very important players, this could be the Bruins' last real run at a Stanley Cup title with their current core. 

There's plenty to look forward to in 2023 concerning the Bruins, beginning with the Winter Classic matchup versus the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 2 at Fenway Park. The trade deadline also should be fun, considering the star players rumored to be available. And, of course, the playoffs have the potential to create a lot of great memories for Bruins fans.

It was a very up-and-down 2022 for the Bruins, but there's no question that this franchise is in a strong position to compete for a championship before entering a pivotal 2023 offseason. 

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