Nick Goss

This Presidents' Trophy trend should make Bruins fans optimistic

Presidents' Trophy winners have often fared better the year after winning the cursed award.

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The pain of the Bruins' first-round exit from the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs is still very fresh for hockey fans in Boston, and while time eventually heals most wounds, that defeat is going to sting for a while.

There were a lot of reasons for the Bruins' nightmare end to the 2022-23 campaign: injuries, bad goaltending, a tougher-than-expected opponent in the Florida Panthers, and, of course, the dreaded Presidents' Trophy curse.

Only one of the last 15 winners of the Presidents' Trophy -- awarded to the team with the best record in the regular season -- has won the Stanley Cup in the same year. It was the Chicago Blackhawks, who achieved the feat in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season by beating the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.

Most hockey fans know about this curse. But fewer people probably know that for Presidents' Trophy winners, the following season has actually been pretty successful in recent years.

And it's this trend that should give Bruins fans a little more optimism entering the 2023-24 season.

The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning won 62 games and earned 128 points in a historic season. Then they got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round. Three of the four games weren't even close. The Lightning bounced back, though, and reached the Stanley Cup Final in the next three seasons, winning in 2019-20 and 2020-21.

The Colorado Avalanche won the Presidents' Trophy in 2020-21 and lost in the second round. They turned that disappointment into motivation and won the Stanley Cup in 2021-22. The Florida Panthers lost in a five-game second-round series to the Lightning as Presidents' Trophy winners in 2021-22. They rebounded by making a surprise run to the 2023 Stanley Cup Final, where injuries caught up with them in a loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Washington Capitals were playoff underachievers for a long time and lost in the second round as Presidents' Trophy winners in 2016-17. Alex Ovechkin finally overcame those struggles and led the Capitals to their first ever title the following season.

The Bruins have been through their own heartbreak. They blew a 3-0 series lead in the second round of the 2010 playoffs and lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 7. They also had a 3-0 lead in that Game 7. The pain was short-lived because the B's won the 2011 Stanley Cup.

Context is important, so we should note that the Bruins did lose their top two centers (Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci) to retirement this offseason. Taylor Hall (trade), Tyler Bertuzzi (free agency) and Dmitry Orlov (free agency) also departed.

However, the Bruins are returning one of the three best blue lines in the league. They also have the sport's best goalie tandem. This group allowed the fewest goals last season, and the B's as a team have ranked top five in goals allowed six consecutive years. Their penalty kill has ranked top 10 in six of the last seven seasons.

Brad Marchand is the league's most complete left wing. David Pastrnak was a Hart Trophy finalist and finished runner-up for the Rocket Richard Trophy with 61 goals last season. Jake DeBrusk is on the cusp of becoming a 30-goal scorer, assuming he stays healthy. Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm are both Norris Trophy-caliber defensemen. Linus Ullmark just won the Vezina Trophy. His backup, Jeremy Swayman, would start on many teams.

After plugging roster holes with veterans for so many years, a few talented young players have finally broken through and earned spots on the Opening Night roster. Matthew Poitras, who could debut as a top-six center Wednesday night, is the most exciting of the bunch.

The Bruins will take a step back this season in regards to wins and points. There's obviously nowhere to go but down after setting records last year. But there's still more than enough talent on this roster for this team to be a legit contender in 2023-24.

Several analytics models have the Bruins finishing as the second-place team in the Atlantic Division. A bunch of them have the B's racking up 100-plus points. Fanatics Sportsbook has the Bruins as overwhelming favorites to make the playoffs (-340 odds), the second-best odds to win the division (+360 odds), an over/under of 101.5 points and the ninth-best odds to win the Stanley Cup at +1600.

Last season was painful. But the Bruins have a chance to erase some of it with a bounce-back season. They have the talent and motivation to surprise in 2023-24.

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