By Nick Germano
With October just about a week away, a lot of question marks still remain about the final Bruins roster for their opening night tilt against the Dallas Stars. With the Bruins front office finally beginning to make some cuts, the lineup seems to be coming altogether finally. I will be sharing my thoughts on who makes the opening day skate, and where they’re going to play.
LINE 1: Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
Although there is a lot of speculation that David Pastrnak could be sent down to the second line to provide more depth and give Krejci his long-desired star right-winger, I think it’s a bit bold to mix Pastrnak into that situation. It seems to me that Pastrnak is just too good of a player to be playing on the second line, and I’m not sure how doing that to him would affect his confidence and feelings towards the team. After coming off a historic year again last season, I don’t see any reason why Bruce Cassidy would feel the need to switch up the “Perfection Line”.
LINE 2: Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Karson Kuhlman (Assuming healthy)
With it looking like Anders Bjork will be getting sent down to Providence based on Bruce Cassidy’s comments. “What we all want to see is him play some games consecutively and get confidence-get back to being a productive player. I don’t know if he’ll be able to do that her right away.” There is no debate left, in my opinion, on who should be Krejci’s RW to open the season up. Kuhlman, who had a decent showing in the 2019 Stanley Cup run, looks to find himself in a more consistent role, as injuries and lineup depth kept him out of the discussion for parts of last season. On the left, there is no debate the DeBrusk is the man. At 22 years old, DeBrusk is slowly forming into a leader on and off the ice, putting 42 points last season in only 68 games. He was a vital part of the battle with Toronto in the playoffs and is slowly becoming a fan favorite. I see no reason why DeBrusk couldn’t break out for 60 points this season, assuming he stays healthy, as he is primed to succeed with Krejci in the middle.
LINE 3: Danton Heinen – Charlie Coyle – David Backes
Another player I am high on coming into this season is Danton Heinen. Consistently being a role player for most of his tenure in Boston, he is now being centered by Charlie Coyle, who Patrice Bergeron said had the best camp out of all the Bruins players. With Coyle finally getting into his first full season, I think he and Heinen are destined to explode this year together.
I know people aren’t as keen on him anymore with his hefty contract and lack of production, but with the Bruins clearly adamant on giving Bjork more time to develop, I see no reason why Backes won’t fit in well with this third line. Paired with two youngsters who need veteran presence when on the ice, David Backes can feed off of their energy and skill, as he clearly has a lot to prove. This could either be a very short stint, or a season-long go, but there’s really no telling until puck drop on October 3rd.
LINE 4: Joakim Nordstrom – Sean Kuraly – Brett Ritchie
Not much has changed about the fourth line except the departure of Acciari, and I believe that moving Kuraly down to the fourth line it will permanently give him a lot more room to utilize his skill. One of the best fourth line centers in the game, in my opinion, he should be able to help the Bruins out a lot down the stretch to fill in as a role player when injuries begin to pick up. Again, without the likes of Bjork, the next man up at RW is newly acquired free-agent Brett Ritchie. Leaving from Dallas, Ritchie put up a measly six points last season, and he hopes to prove himself on Boston’s checking/energy unit this year.
DEFENSE 1: Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Is there even anything to say? Boston’s top defensive unit throughout the previous season and playoff run, there is no other combination that deserves to start up top over these two. With Chara on the last year of his contract, this will be a telling year if he wants to keep up at NHL pace, or if it’s time to hang the skates up, but every Boston fan has witnessed this man’s grit, and I think he’s destined for a lot of minutes and a solid season yet again, while helping future franchise centerpiece Charlie McAvoy develop into the elite defenseman everyone knows he can be.
DEFENSE 2: Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Again, the defense is a lot easier to call than the offense. Torey Krug is coming off of a career year last year, with a career-high in assists and points, while Brandon Carlo finally got a chance to prove himself after battling many injuries before. Both players were absolute forces in the playoffs last year, and assuming they both stay healthy, will provide some fantastic depth for an already deep Boston blue-line.
DEFENSE 3: Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Clifton
Cliffy Hockey isn’t going anywhere. Connor Clifton definitely proved himself worthy last year, taking Boston’s hearts and playing some great hockey in the meantime. Next to him will be one of the most underrated players in the league in Matt Grzelcyk. His ability to control the play and get back to play stellar defense is truly unmatched at the lower defensive pairings. He can set up on the power play and help clear the puck on the penalty kill and is a crucial part of this Bruins team that is sure to see plenty of ice this coming season.
GOALIE: Tuukka Rask
Again, I feel like this is a no-brainer. Although Boston’s goalie tandem is one of the best in the league, there’s a clear 1 and a clear 2, and the 1 is Tuukka Rask. Coming off some of the best hockey of his entire career, he hopes to slide right back into his starter role, with the help of Jaroslav Halak to give relief when he needs it. I expect a pretty fair split of games with Tuukka getting the edge, just like last year, so he is hopefully ready if the Bruins find themselves in the playoff race yet again.