Boston Bruins Roster Projection, Version 1.0: Usual Suspects In Top Six
By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With four preseason games in the books, the Boston Bruins sit at a perfect 4-0-0.
Those wins, at the expense of the Washington Capitals and Calgary Flames, have really presented you with a mixed bag.
While the China group was full of NHLers (and featured several looks at what Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy is likely going to roll with when the games get real), the stateside ‘domestic’ group has been left to find their own way to stand out in a seemingly mismatched setting when it comes to the quality of both their teammates and competition.
That’s come with mixed results for the players themselves, but provided a considerably easy to decipher look at what the Bruins are aiming for with their forward lines and defensive pairings. And following the first round of cuts earlier this week, here’s your first projected look at what the Bruins will ice when their regular season begins Oct. 3 against the Capitals.
Following Wednesday’s first round of cuts, the Bruins still have 30 forwards in training camp. But truth be told, it’s hard to find any shocking developments coming out of the first projected forward corps of the 2018-19 Bruins.
First line: Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
I really would have considered breaking this line up to achieve a greater scoring balance, but based on what the Bruins rolled out in China (they kept Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak on the same line), you would have to think that they seem relatively intent on keeping their superhuman line of Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak together. At least to begin the year.
If this is a legitimate problem, the Bruins have themselves some nice problems.
(The lone wrench in this plan? The health of Patrice Bergeron, who has yet to play in a preseason game.)
Second line: Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Ryan Donato
There’s no way the Bruins separate the highly-effectively Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci one-two punch on their second line, and Ryan Donato has spent the majority of summer trying to learn how to be a right winger.
In fact, Donato has found some early results on the right, with a goal and an assist through the first two preseason games of the season. And though it was Jack Studnicka and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson centering the line instead of Krejci, there was some noticeable chemistry between DeBrusk and Donato, especially when it came to their o-zone movement. And if we’re being honest, the Bruins are not going to find a better legitimate scorer to plug to Krejci’s right than Donato.
Third line: Danton Heinen – Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson – David Backes
Handicapping the race for Boston’s third-line center (in order of most likely to win the job) goes a little something like this through the first four preseason games: Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic, and then Studnicka.
At 19, Studnicka had a few moments against a primarily-NHLer Calgary Flames squad, but not nearly enough to lead you to believe that he’s ready for a full-time NHL role. Frederic has been solid, and the Bruins even entrusted him with some defensive-zone faceoffs while protecting a lead in the third period. But he probably needs more AHL seasoning.
Forsbacka Karlsson, meanwhile, has looked at home and has some delivered some veteran-esque moves in all three zones to generate offense. This was almost to be expected after a full season in the AHL, and he hasn’t disappointed in any way, really.
Now, he hasn’t skated with the Heinen-Backes combo on the wings in preseason play just yet (Heinen didn’t travel to China), but that should probably come within the next week of preseason tilts. After all, these two were the most common linemates for Riley Nash last season in what was a highly effective, three-zone threat of a Boston third line.
Fourth line: Chris Wagner – Sean Kuraly – Noel Acciari
In case you can’t tell, stability and familiarity have been the theme of the Bruins’ first three projected lines, and the fourth line should feature more of the same. And to that point, if the Bruins want to recreate the fourth line they had a season ago, free agent addition Chris Wagner is probably the closest thing this year’s roster has to a Tim Schaller.
Although Wagner is a right-shot versus the left-handed shot of Schaller, Wagner is a hard-hitting, shot-blocking forward with center capabilities. Wagner is also coming off a career-high seven goals and 16 points between the Ducks and Isles last year.
Healthy scratches: Joakim Nordstrom, Anders Bjork.
Joakim Nordstrom hasn’t played poorly, but he hasn’t done anything to separate himself from the pack of what is an absolutely jam-packed bottom-six. He also seems like your classic 13th forward that gets throw into the mix at the first sign of an injury or slump somewhere on the Bruins’ bottom six forward corps. Bjork is the one I’m actually not all that confident about, to be honest. Not because he hasn’t played well per se (he actually hasn’t played at all this preseason), I’m just not sure that the Bruins would sit him instead of having him play meaningful minutes in Providence to begin his season.
With Adam McQuaid traded to the New York Rangers just before the start of camp, this one’s real easy to figure out.
First pairing: Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Although the idea of spreading the wealth by separating Chara and McAvoy is entertaining or at least worth exploring from a depth standpoint, this is still a pairing that is worth its weight in gold for the Bruins.
Together for over 860 even-strength minutes a season ago, the Chara-McAvoy pairing were on the ice for 39 goals for, and just 25 goals against. That plus-14 finished the season as the sixth-best among all NHL pairings.
Second pairing: John Moore – Kevan Miller
John Moore has acclimated himself to Boston as well as one can through two preseason games. And pairing him with Kevan Miller may give the Bruins a sturdy middle pairing that can begin and end their shift in any zone without an issue.
Third pairing: Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
This pairing was en route to an incredibly strong finish to their regular season when Brandon Carlo’s year ended with yet another awkward tumble along the TD Garden boards. Cassidy even deployed them as a shutdown pair at one point! I wouldn’t separate the duo, even if it means that you’re essentially punting on Carlo making an offensive impact.
Healthy scratch: Matt Grzelcyk
This is assuming that Krug’s ankle is 100 percent healed and ready to go for Opening Night, of course, but Matt Grzelcyk is essentially your healthy scratch by default. Krug’s simply too important to Boston’s offensive zone to sit him down, and Moore did not sign a five-year deal with the Bruins to begin his Boston career as a healthy scratch.
Starting goaltender: Tuukka Rask
Rask is your starting goaltender, you idiots.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.