By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With a six-game preseason officially behind them, the Bruins will turn their attention to the final round of cuts and begin their preparation for the 2019-20 regular season. It was a preseason that featured worthwhile competition across the board, and with head coach Bruce Cassidy dubbing the team both physically and mentally ready to get things going.
Here’s our final stab at what the Bruins will bring to Dallas when the puck drops on the 2019-20 season…
Line 1: Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has shown no interest in breaking up this line, even with the growing belief that establishing a greater balance by putting Pastrnak with David Krejci may be beneficial to the B’s in the long run.
The Bruins got Bergeron (groin) on the ice for about 13 minutes in Saturday’s preseason finale, and that appears to be more than enough for the team to believe he’ll be ready to go for Thursday’s season opener in Dallas. Bergeron himself said that he doesn’t see anything that will hold him out of suiting up for the first game of the season, too.
This line has been on the ice for 80 even-strength goals scored over the last three years, good for the 5th-most in the NHL.
Line 2: Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Karson Kuhlman
Assuming David Krejci (lower-body) is good to go for Opening Night, which the Bruins will believe he will be, the Bruins are nearing decision time on the right side of that line with Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. Karson Kuhlman is the player that many (including yours truly) believe is the favorite for that spot, and Cassidy was asked about that following Saturday’s game.
“I know he can play there. I’ve seen it. I haven’t seen him with [David] Krejci this particular preseason, but I’m comfortable with how he plays,” Cassidy said of Kuhlman on line two. “So, we just got to make the decision, what’s best for the team. We’ve got some new players in here, did they get a look first? So we’ll talk about all of that stuff. But to answer your question, yes. I like the way Kuhlman plays. He complements Krejci and again, I’ve said this before, not your typical second-line right winger, because his resume isn’t as extensive, but he’s gone in there and did a good job for us and an important thing for us.”
It’s a smaller sample size, sure, but the Bruins outshot opponents 82-59 and outscored the opposition 11-4 in 126:59 of five-on-five play with the DeBrusk-Krejci-Kuhlman on the ice between the regular season and postseason last year.
Line 3: Danton Heinen – Charlie Coyle – Brett Ritchie
Charlie Coyle has been Boston’s best skater in camp. I’d make the case that one of his linemates at one point in camp, Anders Bjork, was the team’s second-best skater. But that seems unlikely to propel Bjork into an NHL role out of the gate, as the Bruins seem intent on letting Bjork get some developmental reps in the AHL to begin the season.
And with Bjork expected to begin his season in the minors, Brett Ritchie (one assist in four preseason appearances) appears to be the best bet on the right side of Boston’s third line with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle.
But you have to wonder how long the rope will be for the 26-year-old Ritchie, who has scored just 11 goals over his last 124 NHL games, given the obvious difference in styles of play between himself and the players he’s replacing (Marcus Johansson last year, Bjork in camp) on that line.
Line 4: Par Lindholm – Sean Kuraly – Chris Wagner
If the Bruins are looking to replace Joakim Nordstrom, who did not appear in a single preseason game as he continues recovers from offseason foot surgery, Par Lindholm is certainly one hell of an option. In addition to being a forward that can play both center and the wing, Lindholm’s speed and two-way presence seems likely to make him a member of Boston’s 12-forward set out of the gate. The Bruins also seem to believe they could have a new Riley Nash-esque player in Lindholm, who totaled a goal and 13 points in 65 games between the Leafs and Jets last year, meaning there might be more than you’d think.
Healthy scratch: David Backes
The Bruins did not dress David Backes in Saturday’s preseason finale because they didn’t want him to play three games in a week. This, to me, means that they’re viewing him as a reliever of sorts, meaning he’ll be utilized in short bursts and for energy purposes. It’s a step back from being in the starting lineup, I know, but the veteran Backes should take comfort in knowing that he certainly played his way out of potential waiver danger this preseason.
There are no real mysteries with what the B’s have on the backend. In fact, their entire defense corps from last year’s Cup run remains with the organization, though Kevan Miller and John Moore will begin the year on the shelf. Alex Petrovic, who was with the team on a professional tryout, signed a two-way deal with the club and will report to Providence if he clears waivers.
First pairing: Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
McAvoy’s back in the fold on a three-year deal and Zdeno Chara is ready to go when the puck drops on the new season following three preseason games and offseason surgeries on his elbow and jaw. This was Boston’s go-to pairing last year, and it’ll be interesting to see if McAvoy takes that next step in 2019-20 and become’s the pairing’s driver. Some things the Bruins want McAvoy to do this year: Become more of a leader, shoot the puck more, and show he can quarterback a power play.
Second pairing: Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug made his preseason debut on Wednesday and survived it unscathed. Given his recent bad luck in these meaningless games, that’s good enough for the Bruins to believe their No. 1 puck-mover is ready to go.
Third pairing: Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Clifton
This means nothing to you, I know, but the TD Garden press box is not ready after a summer of massive renovations. This means that the B’s have stuck us media bums in the Sports Deck for the preseason. It gave us a much closer look at the ice level. My biggest takeaway: Connor Clifton is absolutely delightful chaos. The way he attacks pucks, people, and plays is just absolutely must-watch stuff, and it’s not hard to see why the Bruins love everything about Cliffy Hockey.
Healthy scratch: Steven Kampfer
The 31-year-old Kampfer had three goals and six points in 35 games with the Bruins last year.
Starting goaltender: Tuukka Rask
He’s still the starting goalie, ‘ya bunch of crazies.
Backup goaltender: Jaroslav Halak
The Bruins really believe they have the best goaltending tandem in the NHL, and a lot of that comes back to the faith they have in Jaroslav Halak. The preseason did nothing to sway them from that, as he stopped 45-of-46 shots against in the preseason.
Injured reserve: Joakim Nordstrom, Peter Cehlarik, Kevan Miller, John Moore
Bruins utility forward Joakim Nordstrom, who suffered (and played through) a broken foot in last year’s Stanley Cup run, failed to get on the ice for any live-game action during the B’s six-game preseason run. Given their abundance of capable fourth-line players, the Bruins have the luxury of taking their time with Nordstrom.
Peter Cehlarik is waiver-eligible, and stashing him on injured reserve will buy the B’s some more time when it comes to making a decision on what they’re going to do with a player who’s always shown promise when put in the right situation.
Defensemen Kevan Miller (twice-broken kneecap) and John Moore (shoulder) will begin the year on the shelf.