(Photo Credit: Associated Press/Charles Krupa)
By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty
Before I begin, I want to preface this by saying this will be the first of multiple versions. These won’t factor in any hypothetical trades and is based on what I think the best lineup would be on opening night for the Bruins.
First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Bjork
If there is a spot for Anders Bjork on this team come opening night, I think it would be best to throw him on the first line. He showed comfortability there at times with the past, and putting a player with dynamic offensive upside such as Anders Bjork on the first line could really start to unlock his potential.
Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron will stay perched in their normal spots. I think there is a high chance we see Pastrnak on the first line as usual, but I think there is room for Pastrnak to succeed elsewhere in the lineup while being able to accommodate Bjork in a scoring role.
Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci stay where they are most familiar, and David Pastrnak gives another consistent scoring winger. The second-line right-wing position has been a revolving door for too long. This is the best internal option to fix the issue that the team has. Doing this could essentially give the Bruins a line 1A, 1B scenario.
Third Line: Heinen – Coyle – Kuhlman
This line has the potential to be one of the better third lines in the NHL. Heinen and Coyle gelled really well together and Kuhlman has the potential to add great speed and forechecking ability on the wing. A line that can wear you down in all three zones and score.
Additionally, I hope Danton Heinen stays in this spot consistently, as an increase in production could be seen if he has a consistent home with consistent linemates. He was moving up and down the lineup a lot, and the same could be said for Karson Kuhlman. The two could complement each other quite well with Charlie Coyle seemingly clicking with any linemates thrown his way.
Fourth Line: Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner
With Noel Acciari off to Florida, Chris Wagner makes a lot of sense in his old spot alongside Joakim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly. I don’t thin Acciari’s departure will deter this fourth line from being dominant yet again. When a change of pace is needed, Pär Lindholm and Brett Ritchie are available.
Extras: Lindholm – Ritchie
When it comes down to it, I think Lindholm and Ritchie were signed to be NHL depth forwards on this team. I don’t see either of them being sent down to the AHL unless they really struggle in camp.
With them in the fold, I could see David Backes being sent to the AHL for cap relief and so these guys can play. That is if Backes isn’t traded before opening night. Backes is still a serviceable NHL forward, but he struggled to find consistency for much of last season.
First Pairing: Chara – McAvoy
When put together, this pair was pretty consistently dominant. Master and apprentice, both having displayed shutdown tactics in different eras of the NHL, as well as alongside one another. There is no need to break up this pairing.
Second Pairing: Krug – Carlo
Same deal here. Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo contrasting styles actually complemented one another quite well. Krug had an excellent season yet again, primarily offensively and on the power play, and Carlo had arguably the best season of his young career. No need to break it up.
Third Pairing: Grzelcyk – Clifton
The fact that this is the third defensive pairing really shows how deep the Bruins are in the top-six. This could be a second pairing on plenty of other NHL teams. Towards the latter half of the season and into the playoffs, Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton were rock solid together. Two talented young puck movers who can break the puck out effectively and establish offense and speed through the neutral zone. A larger sample size of Grzlecyk and Clifton would serve the team well.
Extras: Kampfer – Miller (IR) – Moore (LTIR)
Steven Kampfer is the seventh defenseman until Kevan Miller and John Moore return. Miller’s situation is tough. It’s hard to tell if he will be healthy enough to suit up on opening night. In this scenario, he isn’t ready to suit up due to the fact that he is still recovering. Being on IR frees up a roster spot until his return. Moore’s recovery timetable is set to be longer, so he is on LTIR in this scenario, freeing up yet another roster spot. Whether their eventual returns affect the top-six remains to be seen.
Goalies: Rask – Halak
This is a no-brainer. Rask and Halak bring us to 23 on the opening night roster.
This is a balanced lineup top to bottom that I hope Bruce Cassidy won’t have to shuffle around all that much. Three forward lines that can all score, a great fourth line, and a rock-solid top-six defensive core, backstopped by two great goalies. A lot can change between now and camp. We’ll see how things shake out.