Hockey is a game where keeping pucks out of nets is a requirement for success. As such, Tuukka Rask is and will always be the team’s most important player. The Bruins’ No. 1 goalie is No. 1 on the team’s most-important list.
Keep in mind that this list skews toward players with more to give. That is, if some of the underperformers in this ranking improve, the Bruins will be better off.
1. Tuukka Rask. The 30-year-old has the skill, athleticism, and pedigree to be one of the league’s elite. In 2013-14, Rask went 36-15-6 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .930 save percentage to win the Vezina Trophy. The three subsequent seasons, however, have not been as good. Last year, Rask was 37-20-5 with a 2.23 GAA and .915 save percentage — OK, but not $7 million annually OK.
2. Anton Khudobin. You might wonder why the No. 2 entry on this list is a backup goalie coming off 16 games last year. That number is precisely the point. For Rask to be Rask, the Bruins need Khudobin to play almost double the games he did last season. Rask made 58 appearances in his Vezina-winning season because Chad Johnson was a dependable backup. The Bruins need Khudobin to be better in 2017-18 for Rask to resume his ace-level play.
3. David Krejci. Ex-coach Claude Julien had a regular saying: The Bruins go as Krejci goes. If Krejci is healthy and skating strongly, he gives the Bruins a very good No. 2 center behind Patrice Bergeron. When Krejci is not moving well, the rest of his game suffers and the second line goes quiet.
4. Ryan Spooner. With arbitration as an aide, Spooner scored a one-year, $2.825 million contract. It’s good money for a third-line center. Now he has to play like one consistently.
5. Zdeno Chara. It does not matter that the strongman is 40 years old. The Bruins need their captain to remain their shutdown defenseman. They’re in trouble if Chara cannot perform his smothering duties.
6. David Backes. The Bruins will be in good shape if the ex-Blue can unlock some quickness in his game.
7. Matt Beleskey. At $3.8 million annually, Beleskey has to be at least the third-line left wing.
8. Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins need their top-line center simply to stay healthy. He’ll take care of the rest.
9. Brad Marchand. Ditto.
10. David Pastrnak. The right wing hit a good threshold with 34 goals last year. It should be only the beginning.