By: Ryan Fay
Usually, the Bruins season is in high gear by now. Normally, we are looking at standings and starting to gear up predictions for the playoffs, but due to COVID-19, we are starting the season in January. As we look forward to many hockey nights in Boston, here are my thoughts on the Bruins season position-by-position.
Although the team around them has faced many changes, the forward group has generally stayed the same. The first line will be missing a big piece in David Pastrnak as he is out for some time from offseason surgery. Jack Studnicka is projected to slide in for him after exemplifying strong play in the bubble. Last year, Studnicka put up 49 points in 60 games with the Providence Bruins. Getting time with the first line will be huge for the young winger’s development. The second and fourth lines will likely remain the same but the third line has a new addition in Craig Smith. Smith comes to the B’s from the Nashville Predators and will slide in on Coyle’s right wing. Coyle has been known to “love to shoot” which will fit in perfectly with Charlie Coyle’s playmaking ability. The forwards will be forced to carry a large load this season, especially with the young D group. The first line will be carrying a lot of that load. The forward group is something to be excited about.
The defense will look very different this year with Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug all wearing different jerseys. The Bruins have chosen to move in a “younger direction” with Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen, likely getting time with the big club this year. With a lot of new faces in the group, Charlie McAvoy will need to take on a larger role, likely pairing with Jeremy Lauzon. Although Lauzon only has 35 regular-season games under his belt, he logged some real minutes in the playoffs last year. On the second line, Carlo will likely keep his spot, pairing with Matt Grzelcyk. Carlo will pair well with the offensively-strong Grzelcyk, similar to his role with Krug last year. On the third line, we will see Zboril pair with Kevan Miller. Miller, who hasn’t played since the 2018-19 season, is pairing with Zboril who has 2 games of NHL regular-season experience. As a very inexperienced line, don’t expect anything big from this line right away. The Miller-Zboril pair could become a good pair by the end of the year, but there will likely be an adjusting period. The defense this year lacks depth on the left side and has arguably only 2 starting-caliber players. This year, the defense won’t be the strong point of the team but has the potential to surprise.
There isn’t any change to the goalie room this year with Tuukka Rask and Jaro Halak returning to the team. Younger prospects like Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar will likely split time in the AHL. The Goalies will be expected to take on a large role this year with a weakened D group. The Goalies have high expectations this year and it will be interesting to see how they perform with so many new faces on the blue line.
This year, the Bruins likely won’t be a deep playoff team, but hockey is always unpredictable. The Bruins could surprise us and go on a deep playoff run, but for now, we wait for the Bruins and the rest of the NHL to start.