Now the Boston Bruins find out how the other half lives. After last year's record-setting season, Brad Marchand takes over as captain and leads the new-look Bruins into battle in the NHL's Atlantic Division.
This team is quite a bit different from the one that had a record 135 points last season and ran away from the competition in winning the Presidents Trophy. The most obvious changes are the retirements of future Hall of Famer Patrice Bergeron and fellow star David Krejci. Those two manned the center positions on the top two lines for Boston.
In addition to those retirements, Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno are now with the Chicago Blackhawks and other former Bruins include Tyler Bertuzzi, Connor Clifton, Garnet Hathaway and Dmitry Orlov.
While several NHL observers look at the Bruins as a team that will struggle to make the playoffs, there is no panic within the organization. The Bruins have the top goaltending tandem in the league with Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, and they rank with the best teams among the blue line crew with Charlie McAvoy leading the way.
4. David Pastrnak will battle Auston Matthews for the NHL goal-scoring title
The remarkable Connor McDavid won the NHL goal-scoring title last year, but that may be a one-off. Not that McDavid will go into any kind of slump as he will most likely win the league's Art Ross Trophy as the leading point scorer and exceed 50 goals.
However, Pastrnak and Matthews will both exceed 60 goals this season, and possibly reach the 65-goal mark. Despite the retirement of Bergeron and Krejci, the 27-year-old Pastrnak is at the peak of his powers. He is a brilliant skater with a remarkable shot, and he understands the Bruins need leadership.
The new father — he and girlfriend Rebecca Rohlsson have welcomed a baby girl in June — is of a great frame of mind. There should be no stopping him.
3. Charlie McAvoy makes a run at the Norris Trophy
The Bruins could have named McAvoy or Marchand as their new captain. Marchand is the senior player, so they probably didn't want to cause any controversy in bypassing the left wing and going with their star defenseman.
McAvoy's time will come. He is the next great Bruins defenseman, following in the legacy of Eddie Shore, Bobby Orr, Brad Park, Ray Bourque and Zdeno Chara. As strong as McAvoy has been since he made his debut during the 2017 postseason, this is the season he makes his move as an offensive player.
McAvoy scored 7 goals last season and he has never scored more than 10 goals. If he can become a defenseman who score 15-20 goals this season, he will be a first-team All-Star.
Cale Makar is the standard bearer among blue liners in the NHL, and if he is healthy for a full season, he should win the Norris Trophy. However, McAvoy could rise to the level of the No. 2 blue liner in the league.
2. Goaltending will be a major strength
The Bruins allowed the fewest goals in the league last year, and Ullmark won the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender.
As good as Ullmark was, Swayman was nearly as good as the backup goalie. While Ullmark was a bit more consistent at the start of the season, Swayman rose to the occasion after the first couple of months, and since he is the younger goaltender, he may be the netminder the Bruins want to stick with over the long haul.
If the Bruins find they need a top-line center at the trade deadline. they may consider trading Ullmark because No. 3 goalie Brandon Bussi also has excellent skills and star potential.
The Bruins have talent and depth at a position that should ensure their viability.
1. Boston will finish no worse than third in the Atlantic Division
The Bruins don't have their two veteran centers and that is an issue, but neither Bergeron and Krejci were not at their best in the playoffs last year. Bergeron looked like an older player and Krejci didn't have the consistency he once did in the playoffs.
Neither player was a speedster and the Bruins can add more of that factor to the lineup.
Instead of running away with the division title, the Bruins will have to settle for being one of the top 3 teams in the Atlantic Division. They are going to be overlooked at most points during the regular season, and nobody will look at them as a Stanley Cup contender.
That will eliminate the pressure factor that helped crush them in the postseason last year. The Bruins will be a tough out in the Stanley Cup playoffs this season.