After an offseason in which Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli basically kept the band together–aside from a few subtractions, some additions and of course the well-publicized departure of Tim Thomas–NHL.com has predicted what the forward lines and defensive pairs for the Bruins might look like this season. Plus, a look at the goaltending tandem.
With Nathan Horton having received a clean bill of health and the green light to participate in training camp, that means the top line of Milan Lucic on the left, David Krejci at center and Horton on the right should be reunited. When Horton was out of the lineup last season, the team suffered, putting together fewer goals per game and a less-than-stellar record. Lucic and Krejci often struggled as well, especially in the playoffs, although Krejci did have that injury from a pane of glass to deal with as well. Regardless, with Horton back on the right wing, here’s to more goals like this:
Considering their production and chemistry from last season, it’s gotta be Brad Marchand on the left, Patrice Bergeron at center and Tyler Seguin on the right. Three of the team’s top goal-scorers (including Seguin’s 29 goals), two of the team’s top assist-givers (including Bergeron’s 42 helpers), the team’s one honey badger or little ball of hate, depending on who you ask, the 2012 Selke Trophy winner and the 2012 Seventh Man Award winner all on one line–it’s a thing of beauty, as Andy Brickley might say, or the best-looking line in the NHL, as Marchand might say. Some proof of how well these guys work together:
The third line saw some personnel changes last season, but worked well when Benoit Pouliot and Brian Rolston were with Chris Kelly. Now that Pouliot is off to Tampa and Rolston isn’t expected to return, though, the third line is due for another change. Kelly is still around, as is Rich Peverley, who won’t need to be a substitute on the top line anymore with a healthy Horton around, so he’ll come back to third line. Jordan Caron, who’s played mostly in Providence but has seen some NHL experience, is probably going to come up here, so it’s Peverley on the left, Kelly at center and Caron on the right. The funny thing is that NHL.com predicts Peverley’s production will decrease because he’s on the third line. Once again, to me this feels like a case of them underestimating what Boston can do with its third line, things like this:
The only things that are guaranteed in life are death and taxes. But if you’re a Bruins fan, you added Merlot at the end there because it’s true–the Merlot Line never dies. All three members of the Merlot Line got new contracts this year, so that’s Shawn Thornton on the left, Gregory Campbell at center and Daniel Paille on the right. All three can chip in with timely goals and assists and all three can drop the gloves if need be, though of course that’s Thornton’s specialty. Still, they can all put things on the scoreboard:
The pool of forwards to draw from in case of injury or suspension is a deep one. It would be especially fun to see Chris Bourque take the ice playing for the same team on which his dad Ray was legendary. Similarly, Christian Hanson would be fun to see on Bruins ice–expect a few fans to show up dressed as Johnstown Chiefs players if that happens. Carter Camper got some NHL experience last season, Lane MacDermid‘s a good choice for a tough guy, Ryan Spooner or Jared Knight could be promising if inexperienced above junior level and Max Sauve might want a chance to actually score points for the Bruins, which he didn’t do last year.
The Defense Pairs:
NHL.com forecasts Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk as the top pair. Chara is, of course, the big C, a guy who dished out more than 150 hits last season and blocked almost 90 shots with that massive frame. He’s also excellent on the power play, putting up 18 points on the man advantage, and so long as he’s not the reason the Bruins are killing a penalty, he’s good on the kill too. Let’s not forget that +33 rating, either. Boychuk is also a solid hitter–nearly 150 last season–and blocked almost 135 shots, plus he boasted a +27 rating.
Dennis Seidenberg is paired with Dougie Hamilton, who is probably going to make the team, and it does make sense to have the young guy paired with an older hand to get that mentoring experience. It would be even more amusing to see Hamilton and Chara together since both are above 6 foot 5, but the Chara-Boychuk pair works well. Chara-Seidenberg is usually reserved for playoff use. Seidenberg’s big presence–about 155 hits and 150 blocked shots last season–and scoring ability (remember that center ice goal against Ottawa?) can be a good way for the big-bodied Hamilton to elevate his game.
Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid form the hypothetical third pair. Both defensemen have the ability to score, drop the gloves, hit and block shots, although McQuaid’s the heavier hitter and blocker with a little over 100 hits and shots blocked compared to Ference’s nearly 70 hits and 80 blocked shots.
Like the pool of forwards, there are quite a few blueliners Boston has in its arsenal. I like Torey Krug for his combination of hard work (he knows he’s a small guy, but he works really hard in spite of it) and scoring touch. Other potential seventh D callups include Matt Bartkowski, Colby Cohen, David Warsofsky or Garnet Exelby. Exelby has a wealth of NHL and AHL experience from many teams while the other potential callups are familiar sights in Providence.
Tuukka Rask gets what’s either the first or second chance to prove himself since he became a Bruin in 2006. His first chance came due to a Thomas injury in 2009-10, but when he got better, he regained his starter form. Of course, he’s gone now, so it’s definitely Tuukka time in Boston. He didn’t play as much as he wanted to last season, partly due to a March injury that ended his season early, but he did put together an 11-8-3 record with three shutouts (including one against the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings), a .929 save percentage and a 2.05 goals-against average. Saves like these will earn him raucous chants of “Tuuk!” at TD Garden this year–and force Bruins fans to explain to their friends that, no, they’re not booing.
New backup Anton Khudobin played just one game for Boston late last season, but he allowed just one goal and got the win. He had a 21-19-3 record in Providence last season with a .919 save percentage and a 2.61 goals-against average. He shows a lot of promise too and could be great in the backup role.
Further down the goalie line of succession, Niklas Svedberg and Michael Hutchinson form Providence’s new tandem.