By Carrie Salls | Follow Me on Twitter @nittgrl73
First off, I’d like to give a shout out to fellow Black N Gold Hockey writer Mike Cratty, who started the ball rolling with his thoughts on what the Bruins’ opening day lineup should look like, as well as to the other members of the Black N Gold writing team who have since added their insights. Here are the links to all of their contributions. If you haven’t already, please give them a read.
Without further ado, I’m ready to throw my hat into the ring. Keep in mind, this is the lineup I think will give the team the best chance to beat the Dallas Stars on opening night, Oct. 3, based on the current players available and who I believe will be available once the season rolls around. A lot could and likely will change in the meantime. Enjoy.
First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Heinen
For all the knocks on Danton Heinen’s lack of production in this sophomore season, Heinen proved in David Pastrnak’s absence during the 2018-2019 campaign that he, more than any other option coach Bruce Cassidy tried, can be a valuable asset lining up alongside Marchand and Bergeron. Heinen has the puck possession and defensive skills to hold up his end against other teams’ top lines. An added bonus is that Heinen himself recently acknowledged that he needs to work on pulling the trigger. If he can improve on the hesitation to shoot that seemed to especially plague him during the team’s playoff run, he will be a solid choice for the first line.
Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak
What to do with the second line? Not an easy fix for Cassidy and crew to be sure, but I think a little consistency can return this line to glory. Yes, the coaching staff tried moving Pastrnak to the second line a few times last season, with little to no success. However, the move rarely stuck for more than one or two games, sometimes even one or two periods. With a chance to build some chemistry with linemates Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci from the get-go, Pastrnak could very well bring a major scoring threat to a second line that has struggled to find its identity.
Third Line: Nordstrom – Coyle – Ritchie
Fourth Line: Bjork – Kuraly – Wagner
I myself almost cannot believe I am suggesting this, especially when it means breaking up arguably the best fourth line in the National Hockey League. However, the departure of Noel Acciari has changed the dynamic of that line a bit anyway. An argument certainly could be made to switch Anders Bjork and Joakim Nordstrom here, but I believe the team would be better served to use Bjork on a line with Sean Kuraly to start off the season. Bjork and Kuraly have played together in the past and may have a better comfort level than Bjork would with Coyle and Ritchie. This move is designed to help Bjork find his game, at least until he is far enough along in his comeback bid to warrant a promotion or until it appears he is not ready.
Extra Forwards: David Backes, Par Lindholm, Karson Kuhlman
Here is where it really starts to get tricky. Simply put, it doesn’t appear that the Bruins have enough available cap space to re-sign both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, especially in the wake of the New York Rangers’ decision to give young defenseman Jacob Trouba a seven-year contract worth $8 million per year. As a result, consider these suggested defensive pairings to be written in pencil.
Chara – McAvoy
Of the two restricted-free-agent D-men the Bruins still need to sign, the team has more leverage to keep McAvoy in the Spoked B, and he is arguably the more attractive option between the two, even if the difference is negligible. Assuming McAvoy remains a Bruin this year, there is no real reason to stray from this normal pairing, keeping in mind that Chara’s minutes may be reduced.
Krug – Clifton
Since this projection involves the Bruins re-signing McAvoy, it is difficult to imagine how Brandon Carlo could also remain in the fold, barring a trade or the somewhat unlikely chance of one or both agreeing to sign a bridge deal. Connor Clifton filled in admirably in every defensive pairing he was placed in last season. In fact, he played so well that he stuck around after the blue-line contingency got healthier. Krug is likely the heir apparent to Chara’s slot, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick up more playing time if the captain’s ice-time is cut back.
Grzelcyk – Kampfer
Few would argue that Matt Grzelcyk would be higher up in the lineup on a team that did not have the defensive depth the Bruins enjoy. Gryz played with a revolving door of partners in the past season, including Clifton, Steven Kampfer and John Moore, and didn’t seem to miss a beat. Kampfer works hard and is a true team player. He deserves a shot to start the year.
Extra Defense: Kevan Miller, Urho Vaakanainen
Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak
This was one of the best goaltender tandems in the National Hockey League last year and there is no reason to believe that would change. Halak may be one player who could garner some trade interest and open up some cap space, but it would most likely not be enough to keep both McAvoy and Carlo in Boston.