Bruins Player Predictions: Gritty Fourth Line Gives Bruins Edge
The Boston Bruins lost some of their edge and grit when Noel Acciari signed with the Florida Panthers back on July 1st. The fourth line will miss him a bit, but the Bruins should still boast one of the best fourth lines in the NHL. Gritty center Sean Kuraly has proven he can do an array of different things, while Joakim Nordstrom is an elite penalty killer. Add in Chris Wager, and the Bruins have a fourth line comparable with some team’s third lines.
Nordstrom won’t be ready to play on opening night, coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed that on Tuesday. Brett Ritchie is likely to replace him in the lineup in Dallas, but Nordstrom will eventually settle back into his role on this fourth line. Kuraly is locked in as the center, while Wagner returns to the lineup after an injury deep in the playoffs.
Expect another big season from this grinding, identity line.
2018-19 was an interesting year for this trio of Boston Bruins. Wagner joined the Bruins as a free agent in July of 2018, and didn’t have a certain role when the season opened. Nordstrom also joined the Bruins as a free agent in 2018. He was expected to fill a depth role, playing a strong defensive game. Kuraly took a big step forward, adding some offense to his game and emerging as a full-time NHL’er.
Kuraly won the hearts of Bruins fans with a career-high 21 points (8 g, 13 a) and 129 hits at five-on-five. He was terrific with faceoffs, winning 53.8% of draws taken in 2018-19. Kuraly struggled possession wise, as he posted a Corsi For at five-on-five of 49.4%. He started only 32.8% of his shifts in the offensive zone, which certainly factored into his possession numbers.
Kuraly emerged a strong shutdown center who can kill penalties and chip in offense in 2018-19. That’s an extremely valuable player.
Wagner, dubbed “The Mayor of Walpole”, delivered 12 goals in his first season as a Bruin. A strong two-way forward who brings a physical element to the table, Wagner fit right in with the Bruins and quickly became a fan favorite. He averaged 13:27 per game and finished with 247 hits at five-on-five. He’s a bruiser who doesn’t bleed possession and who can chip in offense.
Nordstrom, lastly, is a PK ace. He only managed 12 points (7 g, 5 a) in his first season as a Bruin, but Nordstrom was a top penalty killer and handled heavy defensive zone starts. Another two-way forward, Nordstrom forced 26 takeaways a season ago.
When healthy, this line should provide the Boston Bruins with strong defensive play and a physical edge. All three players are strong defensive forwards, can chip in offense and contribute on the penalty kill. The Bruins fourth line should be the poster child for fourth lines around the league.
Steady play should be the expectation yet again this season. All three of these forwards will play big roles on the penalty kill, while both Wagner and Kuraly should come close to 200 hits at even strength on the season.
Strong defensive play, physicality and a little bit of offense. That’s what this line provided a season ago. Expect more of the same in 2019-20.
Chris Wagner Official Prediction: 77 GP, 11 Goals, 10 Assists, 21 Points, +3, 13:14 TOI
Joakim Nordstrom Official Prediction: 68 GP, 6 Goals, 8 Assists, 14 Points, +2, 13:30 TOI
Sean Kuraly Official Prediction: 75 GP, 9 Goals, 13 Assists, 22 Points, +7, 14:10 TOI