The Bruins added only a few newcomers to the offense this offseason, but when the team takes the ice on Thursday night for their season opener against the Lightning, it will certainly have that new-look feel.
While Milan Lucic, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, return to the Bruins’ top six, the first two lines welcome a couple of veteran wingers to round out what should be another dangerous one-two punch for head coach Claude Julien.
Jarome Iginla takes Nathan Horton‘s spot on the top line, and Loui Eriksson takes Bergeron’s flank on the second line. Both players bring something new to the team but come with tremendous qualities that have made the Bruins so successful in the Claude era.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Wednesday and said the newbies are working well together already.
“They’ve fit in,” Chiarelli said. “Iginla is compatible with that line. He’s a shooter and is big and strong, so he has a lot of the same traits that Nathan Horton had.
“That line will be good. It’s a heavy line.”
As with all hockey teams, offensive lines, no matter how skilled and tough the players might be, need to have good chemistry to be successful. Over the years, the B’s have shuffled thing around to find that right mix. Chiarelli thinks these two new units are well on their way to finding their stride but knows it will take more than just a few preseason games and a handful of practices.
“Both of the lines will take some time to get full chemistry, but you can see it coming,” said Chiarelli. “[Eriksson’s] coming on now. They were looking for each other a lot during camp. It’s a selfless thing, but they are trying to be friendly so to speak, and sometimes that plays against the chemistry of the line. But that line is coming around, and Loui as a two-way player, it’s very compatible with that line.”
A Bruins offense can’t be spoken of without the third and fourth lines being mentioned — or praised, rather. The bottom six are arguably just as important as the top six, as their grinding ways, penalty killing and toughness are crucial to keep things flowing for the natural playmakers on the top two lines. While the famous Merlot Line remains intact, the third line welcomes a newcomer in Reilly Smith, who came to Boston with Eriksson in the Stars trade.
Carl Soderberg, who some folks consider a newcomer despite joining the team late last year, is expected to link up with Chris Kelly and Smith on that third sting, but he’ll have to wait awhile, as he’s sitting out at least the first game due to injury.
Despite that setback and a couple of new guys flanking the veteran Kelly, Chiarelli seems pretty confident that line can keep things moving.
“That whole line has had a strong camp,” Chiarelli said of the third line. “Kelly has been skating well. Reilly Smith is a young player, a very smart player. He has the left shot, right wing, so there is the element of soft hands you have to do that on the right side. He’s not real strong in battles but he’s good, he’s sneaky and comes out with pucks.”