Are you ready? We’re back to the 82-game regular season format, which means more joy and also more pain. It’s a roller coaster of emotions every season because there are always surprises, and the good ones can make us feel like geniuses while the bad ones feel like belly flopping into an empty pool.
But we’re all gluttons for punishment, so we might as well stay as informed as we can to later rationalize why the fantasy hockey gods hate you. Yes, they specifically hate you.
2021-22 Fantasy Outlook: Boston Bruins
Last season: The Bruins were once again a strong team, finishing 10th with a plus-32 goal differential and fourth-best in GA/GP even though none of their four goalies played more than 24 games. They’ve been a consistently successful club despite injuries to key players and an aging core, though if not for Jeremy Swayman, they would not have made the playoffs so easily.
Best option: Brad Marchand, LW.
Marchand must’ve been a saint in a previous life because he’s truly been blessed by the hockey gods. Not many players enter their offensive peak in their 30’s, but that’s exactly what Marchand is doing, averaging over a point per game every season since his age-28 season and just set a career-high 1.30 P/GP last season. The customary age curve does not seem to apply to Marchand and he remains a top-tier fantasy pick due to his consistency; he is one of six players THN’s Pool Guide has projected to score at least 100 points. He’s the league’s most hated unicorn, but dammit, he’s still a unicorn.
Hidden gem: Linus Ullmark, G.
Considering the defense in front of Ullmark, I’d say he’s been pretty outstanding for the Sabres over the past few seasons. The former Swedish League’s top goalie has flown under the radar since entering the NHL, and this is his big chance to show what he can do with a better team playing in games that matter. Jeremy Swayman is a threat to steal the starting job considering, but it will be Ullmark’s crease to start, who is older and more experienced. Last season, according to naturalstattrick.com, Ullmark ranked seventh with 9.13 GSAA, sandwiched between Marc-Andre Fleury and Connor Hellebuyck. If all goes well, Ullmark could pay huge dividends as a mid-round pick with strong peripheral stats and a shot at 30 wins.
Goalies: It’s the first time in 14 seasons the Bruins won’t have Tuukka Rask in net, so understandably there’s some uncertainty. But simply based on talent, an Ullmark-Swayman tandem could rival Rask and Jaroslav Halak, and the B’s have an elite defender in Charlie McAvoy and solid depth with Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk and Mike Reilly. Ullmark is the goalie to target but Swayman is a good insurance policy to have. The last thing you want is to see Ullmark and Swayman end up in a timeshare and only have one of them on your roster.
Outlook: It’s a tough division at the top but expect the Bruins to finish top-three. The Sabres, Red Wings and Senators are expected to be bottom feeders, so there’s plenty of very favorable matchups, especially in head-to-head leagues. Beyond the goalies, Marchand, Pastrnak, McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron and Taylor Hall will surely be drafted while Craig Smith and Charlie Coyle, both of whom have 20-goal potential, Nick Foligno with guaranteed 150+ hits and Erik Haula with his faceoff prowess, are good depth options in deeper leagues.