A look at each of the three other Eastern Conference round-robin teams gives an overview of what fans of the Boston Bruins can expect this summer when the NHL returns to action. What will the Bruins themselves look like? That’s a question that does not have an obvious answer at this time.
When Bruce Cassidy sets the roster and eventual Game 1 lineup, what will the Bruins be working with? We’ll try to answer that question over the new few days.
Today, it’s a deep dive into the forwards that will likely suit up for the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoff round-robin tournament.
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak
The three most dangerous players on the Boston Bruins all happen to be on the club’s top forward line. David Pastrnak, who won a share of the ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy with Alexander Ovechkin, has emerged as one of the game’s premier snipers. Bergeron, an elite two-way center, and Marchand form a terrific veteran duo with the young sniper.
Pastrnak’s 48 goals were tied for the league lead, and his 95 points (48 g, 47 a) were tops on the Bruins. Marchand finished second on the team in scoring with 87 points (28 g, 59 a), while Bergeron was third with 56 points (31 g, 25 a) on the season.
This line has a little bit of everything on it. The argument can be made that this trio is the top line in the NHL currently. It would be difficult to prove that argument wrong.
Nick Ritchie – David Krejci – Ondrej Kase
On paper, this is a rather weak second line. That said, Krejci is a proven top-six center in the NHL and has routinely gone to a different level in the playoffs. His 43 points (13 g, 30 a) were respectable considering his role and the revolving door of wingers he had to deal with.
Ritchie, acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline, saw time on Krejci’s wing prior to ‘the pause’. He had two points (1 g, 1 a) for the Bruins and never got a chance to really get comfortable. That said, the Bruins need someone to step up inside their top-six and Ritchie is a strong candidate.
Lastly, Kase brings his goal scoring touch to the right side of this line. The Czech winger has a good shot and has proven before that he can make things happen when the puck finds him. He’s a strong complementary player, and his style meshes well with that of Krejci.
The biggest concern with Kase? He simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He played in six games after the trade and only registered a single assist.
Sean Kuraly – Charlie Coyle – Jake DeBrusk
It would be easy to slide DeBrusk up to the second line. In fact, it would not be a surprise to see him there at some point in the playoffs. That said, he starts with Coyle on the third line. This duo was strong for the Bruins and gave them the ability to create some serious mismatches. This line might be the Bruins’ third line, but it is better than a lot of second lines around the league.
Coyle, in his first full season with the Bruins, scored 37 points (16 g, 21 a) in 70 games. He does a lot of things, and is one of the better third line centers in the league today. DeBrusk took a slight step back, but still scored 19 goals in 65 games.
Kuraly has emerged as a real strong bottom-six energy player for the Bruins. He collected 23 points (6 g, 17 a) in 69 games while also providing physical play. Kuraly’s style is a good fit for the typical atmosphere associated with playoff hockey. He doesn’t back away from battles and can retrieve pucks.
Joakim Nordstrom – Par Lindholm – Chris Wagner
There are a number of different combinations that coach Bruce Cassidy could go with here. That said, Wagner seems like a lock to be in the lineup for Game 1. He’s proven to be an extremely versatile player who can also shift to center when needed. He’s a key penalty killer for the Bruins, and brings the physical element needed in the playoffs.
Nordstrom doesn’t bring much offense, but is a solid defensive forward and can help on the penalty kill as well. His veteran presence should keep him in the lineup over some of the younger players. Experience will be key this summer, of that there is little doubt.
Lindholm should get the nod at center. He had six points (3 g, 3 a) in 40 games and played well in a depth role. Like Nordstrom and Wagner, he too has playoff experience and can move up and down the lineup if needed.
Odds are, the ‘Black Aces’ won’t play much, if at all, for the Boston Bruins come the postseason. The extra forwards you see throughout the season, however, are a different story. Anders Bjork very easily could draw in on the wing. He finished the 2019-20 season with nine goals and appeared to be taking steps forward. He’s a candidate for top-six work if Ritchie or Kase don’t pan out or start slow.
Karson Kuhlman is another candidate to see serious playing time. Although he dealt with injury most of the season, Kuhlman looked the part in eight playoff games last spring. He had six points (1 g, 5 a) in 25 NHL games this past season after missing a good chunk of the season with a lower-body injury.