When the season opens if all goes according to the master plan of Peter Chiarelli and Cam Neely, the Boston Bruins will look less like they did last season, and more like they did when they ran the table and collected Lord Stanley’s Cup. In the past two seasons the Boston Bruins had a clear split between the top two lines and what they contributed, and the second six and what the contributed.
Despite Daniel Paille burring tha line, and playing up and down the lineup as injuries and inconsistency crippled top six effectiveness at time you don’t need to look much further than average time on ice for the forwards to see who did what and match up their scoring contributions. Chris Bourque failed to lockup a roster spot despite an extended stay in the lineup, he just couldn’t make the leap to the NHL. In what many expected to be his final dance with the Boston Bruins, Jordan Caron showed heart, commitment and little of the finishing that the team so desperately needed throughout the season. Of Lane McDermid, Jay Pandolfo, and Kaspars Daugavins the best that can be said of them is that the tried. Both Ryan Spooner and Carl Soderberg get a pass as their appearances were so curtailed, they spent as much time going over the boards as on the ice.
This year, the goal is a different composition. Adding Soderberg late last year, bringing in Iginla and Eriksson this year, and pushing prospects like Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight, Alex Khoklochev, Matt Fraser, Seth Griffith, and Alex Fallstrom to come to camp ready to compete for a Calder trophy. It is likely two of these players will fill in the third line, and extra forward slots.
A potential opening night third line (left to right) is Chris Kelly – Carl Soderberg – Alex Fallstrom/Jared Knight. Its equally possible one or more of these young men will be traded before the puck drops for real.
Depending on how Claude Julinen wants to build the top two lines, and given the versatility of both Loui Eriksson and Brad Marchand, the lines could look very different from last year. Both Jarome Iginla and Loui Erikssn have mentioned a desire to play with Patrice Bergeron.
It is entirely possible we could see lines like:
Eriksson – Bergeron – Iginla
Lucic – Krejci – Marchand
Those trios would provide lines similar to the formerly successful grouping of Lucic, Marc Savard and Phil Kessel with speed and a willing shooter on the right, an offensive minded center, and Milan Lucic’s raw physicality and willingness to go anywhere and take the puck. The Bergeron line above would give Iginla and Eriksson the ability to go full steam offensively at will, and leave the most defensively responsible forward on the roster to aid the blueliners. Regardless of how the top six shakedown, the Boston Bruins have five guys who either have or have the potential to score 30 goals. The only one of the six who hasn’t come close to 30 or passed it is Krejci and counting defensemen and powerplay time, he has a legitimate shot at 60 to 65 assists this season.
Last year Boston Bruins slipped from near the top of the NHL in scoring, to middle of the pack. A little more depth, a little more finishing ability, a touch more hunger, and maybe more maturity might have taken them past the Chicago Blackhawks and on to their seventh Stanley Cup. Clearly fans were not the only ones to notice the drop, and equally clearly the Boston brain trust believe they’ve addressed the issues.