With the start to the NHL regular season just a week away, the Bruins' 2-0 preseason win over the New Jersey Devils on Thursday night was an important final showcase for some of the players on the bubble for the NHL roster.
Players like David Backes, Anders Bjork, Par Lindholm and Jeremy Lauzon knew that potential jobs were on the line, and they performed like it was time to leave everything out on the ice. Backes threw his body around, skated with better legs than he has in the recent past and scored an important insurance goal in the third period on a nifty backhanded shot from the slot. Bjork (an assist, a plus-1 rating, three takeaways and eight shot attempts) was fast and aggressive, buzzing around the net and creating offensive chances on an evening when the Bruins' best players had the night off.
Lauzon was big and physical, and dropped the gloves in the second period with Devils forward Nathan Bastian while showing that he could be playing for another NHL team that isn’t quite so stocked with quality blueliners like the Black and Gold. Lindholm killed penalties and looked solid centering Backes and Bjork as the night’s best line, and looks like he could be a very useful, versatile piece for the Bruins, particularly if David Krejci needs to miss any time at the start of the season.
For players needing to play well to make Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy’s roster deliberations a little more difficult, they did exactly that. Those final camp cuts, by the way, should be forthcoming on Thursday with the desire for the Bruins to get down to one practice group ahead of this weekend's preseason finale vs. Chicago on Saturday.
“It’s a good problem. We want good depth. I’m happy with the compete level [on Wednesday night]. We made a few mistakes in the second period, managing the puck, but that’s going to happen. Thought Freddy [Trent Frederic] played hard, and Kuhly [Karson Kuhlman] were better. [David] Backes, [Par] Lindholm had a good game,” said Cassidy. “[Anders] Bjork’s around the puck, that line was excellent. Those guys are all trying to, obviously, they know time’s running out. They were told time was running out, if we’re going to play more of our lineup Saturday. I’m glad they took a good step forward.
“We’ll get down to one group [now] for sure. If we don’t skate tomorrow, then Friday will be pretty much the guys that will play Saturday, maybe a few extras in case [Joakim] Nordstrom and [David] Krejci aren’t ready to go.”
It’s interesting to note that Nordstrom continues to be banged up while recovering from a broken foot suffered at the end of the Stanley Cup Final. That could open up one more space on the NHL roster for opening night if he’s not ready to go, and Bjork might just have done enough to earn a spot based on a strong overall performance in training camp.
Just as well, Backes might get the benefit of the doubt to start the season in the lineup while playing like a motivated, proud player who “got a little sand kicked in his face” last postseason when he was scratched during the Stanley Cup Final. That would leave Lindholm and Ritchie as the scratches to begin the season, and an impressive array of pieces for Cassidy and Co. to begin melding together once the season gets going for real in Dallas on Oct. 3.
With all of that in mind, here’s our Bruins Roster Projection 2.0:
|Brad Marchand||Patrice Bergeron||David Pastrnak|
|Jake DeBrusk||David Krejci||Karson Kuhlman|
|Danton Heinen||Charlie Coyle||David Backes|
|Anders Bjork||Sean Kuraly||Chris Wagner|
Scratches: Par Lindholm, Brett Ritchie
|Zdeno Chara||Charlie McAvoy|
|Torey Krug||Brandon Carlo|
|Matt Grzelcyk||Connor Clifton|
Scratch: Steven Kampfer
Injured: John Moore, Kevan Miller, Joakim Nordstrom
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