BRIGHTON, Mass – The Boston Bruins had another morning of scrimmaging on Friday at Warrior Ice Arena with special teams as the focus this time around. The Bruins loaded up on one side with the power play regulars, so the likely top three lines were together on Team White while expected penalty kill unit members ended up on Team Black.
It’s why rookie Jack Studnicka, who is expected to start the season in David Pastrnak’s right wing spot on the Perfection Line, wasn’t skating with Perfection duo Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in the scrimmage. It’s also why Kevan Miller ended up on Team Black as well as the veteran D-man is expected to be an important part of the penalty kill to start the season as well.
The B’s second line had at least a couple of goals in the scrimmage as Jake DeBrusk batted one out of the air on an Ondrej Kase rebound, and David Krejci scored on a sweet double-move during 3-on-3 toward the end of the scrimmage. Here are some other thoughts and observations from the Friday scrimmage along with a projected Bruins lineup based on the way things are shaping up after the first week of training camp:
*Kevan Miller looks healthy and ready to contribute for the Bruins. That’s good news because the Bruins are going to need that kind of rugged, experienced D-man on the back end with Zdeno Chara now off in Washington. Miller played against the Bruins best offensive players during the Friday scrimmage and his skating looked good after missing the last 21 months with knee injuries. At one point midway through the scrimmage a skater even rolled up on Miller’s legs and knocked him down, and he bounced right back up and kept going without any issues. Bruce Cassidy indicated that Miller is ahead of Connor Clifton on the depth chart, so it appears that Miller is going to be right side D-man on the third pairing provided he can remain healthy.
*Brad Marchand looked healthy, explosive and feisty playing in Friday’s scrimmage after sitting out the Thursday practice. Marchand skated with Patrice Bergeron and Paul Carey during five-on-five play, got in plenty of work with the top power play unit and even got into a few scraps with his teammates during the scrimmage. At one point Marchand had his helmet popped off and was pushing and shoving with Chris Wagner in front of the benches, and at another point a shift or two later the Nose Face Killah threw his trademark flex at a player on the other team. Yup, Marchand is feeling healthy.
*A couple of quiet days for Trent Frederic, who was competing for a spot on the fourth line. Anders Bjork instead got a look on the fourth line with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner during Friday’s scrimmage and has looked better over the course of this week. Scrimmaging and practice drills, of course, aren’t really the kind of setting where Frederic’s rugged, physical play is going to shine, but the former first round pick hasn’t done much to distinguish himself in a competition for an Boston Bruins roster spot.
*Friday was a good day for the prospective second line of Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and Ondrej Kase as they chipped in a pair of goals, and for a third line of Nick Ritchie, Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith that looks fast, physical and really capable of controlling puck possession. They were living in the offensive zone for most of the scrimmage when they were out on the ice, and Smith gives them a player that’s going to provide some offensive finish they desperately need. They look like they are locked, loaded and ready to go in the regular season.
*Jeremy Lauzon hasn’t been great this week while getting the first look on the top pairing with Charlie McAvoy, but then again, he’s another heavy, physical player that isn’t going to shine in the scrimmage setting. That being said, I’d expect that both Jakub Zboril (who skated with McAvoy on Friday) and Urho Vaakanainen are going to get looks on the top pair as well.
*Jack Ahcan doesn’t look ready for prime time. He’ll need some AHL seasoning just as Torey Krug needed one year in Providence prior to making the jump to the NHL, but there are some really good signs with him as a long-term player. Ahcan certainly isn’t afraid of jumping into the play and is very aggressive when it comes to jumping into the play and supporting the offense. It did look, however, like the speed of the NHL players caught him by surprise more than a couple of times, and that he needs to get used to that pace before he’s ready to be with the Boston Bruins on a nightly basis.
*It looks like it’s going to be David Krejci and Matt Grzelcyk working the points on the top Bruins power play to start with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Charlie Coyle up front at the forward spots. And yes, it looks like Nick Ritchie is going to be a net-front option for the Bruins on the second power play unit to start things off. All of that will probably change once David Pastrnak returns to good health in February, but that appears to be the PP comes the Bruins are looking at to begin the season. Jake DeBrusk, Craig Smith, Ritchie, Charlie McAvoy and Jakub Zboril/Ondrej Kase got the looks for the second PP unit.
Here’s the projected Boston Bruins opening night lineup at this point: