We’re officially in the dog days of the NHL offseason, which means two things. First, the hockey world is now rather boring, except for the occasional signing. But, it also means that teams now has a much clearer picture of what their roster will look like this season. Every team has players that will make a push during training camps to get on the roster over some other, more established players, but for the most part, we can start to predict the opening night lineups for each team. Let’s take a look at what that might be for the Bruins.
Starting with the forwards, the Bruins’ top line will undoubtedly consist of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Head coach Bruce Cassidy said as much during his media availability the other day. Plus, it just makes sense. I get why people think it’s a good idea to move Pastrnak down to the second line to try to balance out the scoring. But, it’s not a smart move off the bat. This line will be the only one the Bruins will have with chemistry right off the bat. All of the others will feature one or more new faces.
You need at least one line with good chemistry. That way, you know you have one that can score while the others learn how to work together. If, once everyone has had plenty of time to settle in, they need to spread the scoring out a little more, then maybe consider breaking them up on occasion. But, I don’t think that will be necessary or smart long-term.
As for the second line, that will be made up of Taylor Hall, Charlie Coyle, and Craig Smith. Hall and Smith are obvious choices for the second-line given how they played together last year and the rest of what the Bruins have available. Jake DeBrusk is the only other wing who I can see on the second line. But, both he and Hall are left-wings, and both are much better on their strong sides, so Smith is the better fit. As for Coyle, right after the news of Krejci leaving broke, I, along with many others, assumed the Bruins would be looking to make a trade for a true number two center. However, Cassidy said during his recent presser that Coyle will get the first chance as the second line center. So, there’s no reason to believe that a trade is coming before the season anymore.
I have confidence Coyle will bounce back from his terrible season last year since he will finally be healthy. If that’s the case, then he should do fine with a high-volume shooter in Smith and an incredible playmaker with a scoring touch in Hall. If not, I expect the Bruins to be shopping for one long before the deadline.
While the first two lines are pretty clear for the Bruins, the third and fourth are a bit more up in the air. As of right now, it looks like it will be DeBrusk, Erik Haula, and Nick Foligno on the third line to start the season. But, if someone like Jack Studnicka has a really good camp, he could push for a spot on it. I’m not sure how likely that is, but it is a possibility worth mentioning.
If he’s going to take anyone’s spot on this line, I would say it’d be Haula’s since Studnicka is much more comfortable as a center. I suppose he could also take Foligno’s spot if they want him as a wing. I don’t foresee him taking over DeBrusk’s spot, as I think he’s going to have a big bounce-back year, although it’s possible as well. But, as of right now, I have the Bruins third line being DeBrusk, Haula, and Foligno on opening night.
Last but not least, we have the fourth line for the Bruins. This one is the hardest to predict by a long shot. Tomas Nosek will probably be the center, as Cassidy said as much during his presser. However, Curtis Lazar looked great there for the Bruins last season, so he could easily take that spot as well. I think the determining factor for who gets the center spot is whichever player is more comfortable on the wing if either of them is. If one of them is capable of it, I think we will see both of them on that line in some combination on opening night. But, if neither is good on the wing, then I’m not sure which one will start out in the lineup.
As for the wings, it’s even harder to say. Chris Wagner is likely to be one, although if he plays like he did last season he might not be. As long as one of Lazar and Nosek is okay on the wing, I think it’s safe to say they’ll start on the other. But, if that’s not the case, I’m fairly confident in saying that spot will belong to Trent Frederic. He could also be the center. But, given the other two are more established in that position, I will be surprised if that’s the case.
I personally think Frederic should be on the opening night roster regardless, as he was a solid fourth-liner when healthy last season. I’m not sure Cassidy agrees with me though. But, it’s hard to say. All I know is the fourth line will almost certainly be some combination of Nosek, Lazar, Wagner, and Frederic to start the season. What that combination will be remains to be seen, and it could change fairly often over the course of the season.
Now, it’s time to talk about defensemen. The defense pairings are much easier to predict right now because I think it’s a long shot for any defense prospect to break in during camp. It’s possible, but it feels unlikely. So, that being said, the top pairing will almost certainly be Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk on opening night. I know Cassidy mentioned that Derek Forbort will also get a look with McAvoy at some point, which freaked a lot of people out. But, if you saw/listened to his full quote, you’ll find that he only plans on trying that during games against heavier teams. He’s going to go with Grzelcyk-McAvoy the majority of the time. So, I’m confident in saying that on opening night, that’s the pairing we’ll see.
As for the second pair, this is fairly easy to guess as well. I would be shocked if it was anything other than Mike Reilly and Brandon Carlo. They looked great during their short time together last season, and their chemistry should only improve as time goes on. So, it’s a very safe bet that this will be the Bruins’ second pair on opening night if healthy.
Lastly, we have the third pairing. This is the only one that is up in the air a little bit for opening night, but even at that, I think it’s pretty safe to say that it will be Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton. I would be surprised to see anyone else make it right out of camp. It’s possible, but it just feels unlikely. The Bruins don’t really have a right-shot defense prospect that looks ready to go, and there’s no way Fobort is scratched on opening night given his contract. So, look for this to be the Bruins’ third pair, at least to start.
Last but not least, we have the goaltenders. I can guarantee you that unless there is an injury, the Bruins opening night goaltenders will be Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. There’s simply no way Kyle Keyser of Callum Booth makes it over one of them based on performance. As for who will start on opening night, it will almost surely be Ullmark given his shiny new contract.
All of this considered, my projected opening night lineup is as follows:
(Two of Frederic, Lazar, and Nosek)-Wagner
Obviously, some of this is subject to change during training camp. There could be injuries, or a young player could have an excellent camp and force their way onto the roster. But, as of right now, I expect this to be the lineup the Bruins roll with on opening night. What do you think? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)
Featured image courtesy of Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP.
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