It’s not a secret the Bruins have gotten off to a hot start to the 2019-20 season.
Boston is 20-5-6, good for first place in the Atlantic Division and second in the NHL, just six months after losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on home ice to the St. Louis Blues. Many believed the B’s may start the season slow or suffer some sort of “hangover,” coupled with beginning the year without John Moore and Kevan Miller.
While the Bruins still have some kinks to work out if they want to get back to fight for Lord Stanley, they’re being led by an elite group of “microcore” members. So elite, in fact, they were recognized by The Athletic when executives, scouts and a coach ranked those players atop their list of all 31 times.
The trio consists of a center, defenseman and goalie. And the trio of Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask and Charlie McAvoy tied for the top spot with Tampa Bay Lightnings’ Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Here’s what they said about Tampa Bay’s trio:
Things haven?t gone perfectly for the Lightning this season but every ingredient is there for a championship team. Brayden Point?s emergence at center provides additional flexibility for Steven Stamkos? usage. Andrei Vasilevskiy is struggling, but you have to assume he?s going to figure it out. ?Their top-end talent is so good, especially when you add in (Nikita) Kucherov,? said an executive. ?They just have to change the way they play there.?
And for the Bruins:
Again, another Cup contender. No shock here. The Bruins have had a great microcore for a long time and the emergence of Charlie McAvoy extends it even further. ?McAvoy is going to be the guy. I like (Torey) Krug but McAvoy is the better all-around player,? said the scout in debating the Boston defensemen. Oh yeah, they?ve also got Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak unaccounted for here. ?Add their wingers and it?s right there with the premier teams,? said an executive.
The top line of Marchand, Pastrnak and Bergeron, much like last year, has been lethal, combining for 42 goals and 64 assists through the team’s first 31 games. Rask has been solid between the pipes for the Black and Gold, while McAvoy continues to build his game while paired up with captain Zdeno Chara on the blueline.
As of Monday, the Lightning sit in sixth place in the Atlantic Division, 15 points behind Boston for the No. 1 spot. But they do boast the NHL’s second-best power play, converting 29 percent of their man-advantage chances. Point is tied with two other teammates with 10 goals for the lead, while Hedman boasts seven points over the Bolts’ last six games.
The Bruins and Lightning meet Thursday night in what’s sure to be a battle against division rivals.