WILMINGTON, Mass — It’s been a while since the Boston Bruins have had as much ice time and forward spots on the NHL roster up for grabs as they do right now.
But that’s what happens when you undergo a lot of changes in one summer. Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith, Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell are gone. These departures create openings on all four lines, which is both exciting and a bit of a concern before training camp begins Sept. 17.
“(Head coach Claude Julien) is definitely going to have to play around with some different combinations to see where it fits,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Thursday.
“Loui (Eriksson has) played both (wings), Jimmy Hayes maybe plays both (wings). We have to see where those sparks are. David Pastrnak has the ability to play. We’ll see whether or not he can play with one of the top two guys. Obviously, he faced a lot of third-line competition when he was playing with Spooner. Is he capable of handling top-two line competition?”
Let’s start with what we do know: Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand will lead the first line. They are an elite defensive duo, have tremendous chemistry and are among the most reliable B’s forwards in regard to offensive production. The Bruins controlled 60 percent of even-strength shot attempts with this duo on the ice, which is astounding.
Bergeron and Marchand need a right winger, and there are several options. David Pastrnak is a good one, and it makes sense to play a young, highly skilled player with two veterans who’ll cover for him defensively. Loui Eriksson would be a solid fit with Bergeron and Marchand as well, based on his polished two-way game.
David Krejci will center the second line and needs two wingers. He’s enjoyed great success with power-forward wingers who like to shoot and go hard to the net, which makes Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly logical fits. Krejci’s excellent playmaking skill would Pastrnak a good fit on his line, too.
The bottom-six, which struggled in 2014-15, has plenty of open spots. Ryan Spooner isn’t a lock for the third-line center position, but he’d probably have to endure a horrendous camp not to win the job. The Bruins need his speed and skill, and he displayed improved consistency last season with 18 points in the final 24 games.
The fourth line will undergo a major overhaul. Max Talbot likely has one spot on that line, but the other two are anybody’s to win. The Bruins’ fourth line has been a weakness the last two seasons with its lack of scoring and poor puck possession.
Not being able to put together the majority of your lineup before camp isn’t ideal, but unlike last year, the Bruins have plenty of guys capable of stepping into larger roles. Whoever performs the best at the rookie tournament, in camp and during the preseason will earn the most ice time.
“Sure, there’s a bit of an unknown, don’t get me wrong there, in terms of allowing things to play out, which is a bit of a leap,” Sweeney said. “We all understand that. In a perfect world, maybe you don’t have those question marks. Again, when you’ve gone through a period of change, I think you have to expect that.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Mar 31, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Ryan Spooner (51) controls the puck during the first period against the Florida Panthers at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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