Bruins Roster Reset: Analyzing Boston’s Lines, Defensive Pairings Before Season

We’ll forgive you if you spent the majority of your summer thinking about iced tea rather than ice hockey, but we come to you with important news to share: The NHL is back.

The new season kicks off Wednesday night in Washington, D.C., where the Boston Bruins will battle the defending Stanley Cup champion Capitals.

Here’s what you need to know about the Bruins’ roster as they get set for the 2018-19 season.

Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — David Pastrnak
Jake DeBrusk — David Krejci — Danton Heinen
Ryan Donato — Sean Kuraly — David Backes
Joakim Nordstrom/Anders Bjork — Noel Acciari — Chris Wagner

— Assuming full health, go ahead and pencil in the Bergeron line for at least 225 points among the three of them. Bergeron’s health isn’t a guarantee, though. He’s now 33 years old (where does the time go?), and he’s coming off a season in which injuries hampered the four-time Selke Trophy winner. He’s dealing with injuries that can linger, too. He underwent relatively unexpected offseason groin surgery and has dealt with back spasms for part of the summer. That said, this remains one of the best lines in hockey.

— The public backlash against Krejci sometimes is justified. His tendency to disappear for days, weeks or even months at a time can be maddening, especially when he’s carrying a team-high $7.25 million cap hit. But his line has been a revolving door in recent seasons, and this season appears no different. In the past, he’s been at his best when he’s flanked by big wingers. DeBrusk (6 feet) and Heinen (6-foot-1) don’t offer that cut of beef, but both have considerable upside, especially DeBrusk, who was one of the Bruins’ best players in the playoffs. Heinen is the wild card. He looked great at points last season, but he also found vacancy in Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse at times. If this trio can start quickly and find some instant chemistry, that will be huge for Boston in establishing a solid top-six. If they can’t, then the Krejci shuffle continues.

— There’s potential on that third line, but there are big questions for all three players. Can Donato take the next step, and is he able to endure an entire NHL season? His preseason left something to be desired. Can Kuraly be an effective Riley Nash replacement? The Bruins hope moving him up to the third line will lead to some progression. And what does Backes have left? The veteran forward lost some weight this summer and is ready to put a frustrating 2017-18 in the rear-view. This bottom-six winger role should suit him best.

— It’s going to be interesting to see what the Bruins do with Bjork. When he’s seen NHL ice time, he’s been pretty impressive, but he’s still working his way back from an injury that derailed last season for him. Perhaps we’ll see Peter Cehlarik back up before too long with Bjork — currently the 13th forward — going to Providence to get his feet under him again.

Zdeno Chara — Charlie McAvoy
John Moore — Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk — Kevan Miller
Urho Vaakanainen — Steven Kampfer

— Stop us if you’ve heard this before: The Bruins have some issues on the back end. The top pairing of Chara and McAvoy should be damn good, assuming Chara doesn’t start slipping and McAvoy continues to progress. After that, though, we’ll have to wait and see.

–Torey Krug’s injury is potentially a big one. He’s out at least three weeks with a (new) ankle injury, which not only hurts the Bruins’ defensive depth but also puts a strain on the power play. As far as the power play goes, the Bruins hope Grzelcyk can make an impact, but it’s a fairly decent drop-off from Krug.

— It’s going to be interesting to see how Moore acclimates himself in Boston. The free agent signing brings some size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, but what the Bruins probably like most about him is his skating ability. Moore can get the puck up the ice in a hurry, which should be a boon for the Bruins’ recent reliance on quicker breakouts. The advanced stats paint a less-than-stellar picture in his own zone, though, which is worth monitoring.

Tuukka Rask
Jaroslav Halak

— Rask is still good, but he’s also 31 years old and approaching 500 career games. There’s some tread on the tires, so the Bruins went out and spent a pretty penny on Halak, who should be an upgrade over the very competent Anton Khudobin.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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