Bruins preview: Rankings, predictions, playoff chances and more

David Pastrnak, No. 88, is part of a wave of young talent that hopes to help drive the Bruins' core on another Stanley Cup run. Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios, and more.

After an early playoff exit last spring, can the Boston Bruins make one more Stanley Cup run with their veteran core intact?

How they finished in 2017-18: 50-20-12 (112 points), finished fourth in NHL, second in the Atlantic Division

The Bruins built on the promise of coach Bruce Cassidy's success after taking over from coach Claude Julien with 27 games left in the 2016-17 season. Boston rolled in 2017-18 with a dynamic top line and a balance of veteran stars and young talent, collecting points in 18 straight games during one stretch. They ousted the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games before falling to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the division final.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 102.5

Best-case scenario: Brad Marchand follows through on his search for maturity without sacrificing anything that has made him one of the league's top goal scorers.

Worst-case scenario: Remember how last season started for the Bruins -- with calls for an immediate rebuild (and calls for Tuukka Rask's job)? What if that happens again in Boston, and this team's old core doesn't have the mettle anymore. And what if Patrice Bergeron's rehab takes longer than expected? Then Boston is in trouble.

Forward overview: Marchand and Bergeron are a dynamic duo, but would the Bruins shift David Pastrnak off the best line in the East for the sake of offensive balance? If not, David Krejci will be tasked with finding something special with either Jake DeBrusk or Ryan Donato to spark a second scoring option. It'll be interesting see how the Bruins fare in the bottom six, particularly after losing a reliable defensive center in Riley Nash to free agency. Danton Heinen (47 points) is one to watch. NHL rank: eighth

Defense overview: Zdeno Chara leading the Bruins in ice time (22:54) at 41 years old last season remains a remarkable feat and a testament to his work ethic. He has tutored Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug (coming off a 59-point season) to help the Bruins develop a strong back line, bolstered by second-year NHLer Matt Grzelcyk and free-agent signee John Moore. NHL rank: 14th

Goalie overview: Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak give the Bruins one of the best goaltending duos in the East, with Rask seeking to build on an underrated 2017-18 campaign (34-14-5, .917 save percentage). NHL rank: fifth

Special teams: Quarterbacked by Krug and powered by Pastrnak, the Bruins' power play was fourth in the NHL (23.5 percent) last season. Their penalty kill was even better: Third overall (83.7 percent on 245 times short-handed), with Marchand netting three short-handed goals.

Pipeline overview: Ryan Donato looks like the only true star prospect in this system right now, but it's loaded with a lot of players who should figure into the NHL plans in the not-so-distant future. Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson are among those in the team's second tier who have shown quite a bit of promise over the past year-plus. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: We know David Krejci will be the center on the second line behind the Bruins' all-world top line. But who else slots in? Jake DeBrusk had a good rookie season, and Danton Heinen flashed potential, putting them in the lead for roles, but Ryan Donato is also in the picture, and Anders Bjork still boasts potential. The opposition's concentration in defending against the Bruins' top-heavy attack means there is opportunity for fantasy-relevant secondary scoring if some chemistry develops. It will be a spot to watch through the preseason in identifying late-round targets. Donato is my favorite for now. Read more -- Sean Allen

Coach on the hot seat? He had to wait 14 years, but Cassidy's first full season back behind an NHL bench saw him earn a Jack Adams nomination. His two-year record with Boston: 68-27-13 for a nice .690 winning percentage. He seems pretty safe.

Bold prediction: After whiffing with the Rick Nash move last season, an undaunted GM Don Sweeney takes another big swing at the NHL trade deadline for a winger, and it's Wayne Simmonds.