Bruins

Bruins Roster Projection 2.0: Players on the bubble make strong cases

Bruins Roster Projection 2.0: Players on the bubble make strong cases

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:

FORWARD LINES

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

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk Connor Clifton

Scratch: Steven Kampfer

GOALTENDERS

Tuukka Rask
Jaroslav Halak

Injured: John Moore, Kevan Miller, Joakim Nordstrom

Coyle earning raves for preseason performance>>>>>

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Complacency and comfort are real concerns for a Bruins team running away with division

Complacency and comfort are real concerns for a Bruins team running away with division

BOSTON – The good news for the Bruins is that they hold a 15-point lead over every team in the Atlantic Division and it isn’t even Christmas.

The relatively bad news for the Bruins is also that they hold a 15-point lead over every team in the Atlantic Division and it isn’t even Christmas.

Clearly, the Bruins would rather be up 15 points than behind 15 points, but with every situation there comes challenges.

It certainly seems as if some disarming comfort and an old-fashioned lack of urgency have crept into the B’s game as they again stumbled through the first 40 minutes Thursday night before a patented third-period comeback earned them a point in an eventual overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden.

The game against Chicago was particularly damning because it uncovered a real lack of focus in the overall game. The Bruins allowed a pair of special teams goals in the final two minutes of the first period and were caught napping again 17 seconds into the third to dig a 3-0 hole.

One can dissect the individual problems, whether it was a costly turnover from Charlie McAvoy on the power play that led to Chicago’s shorthanded goal, or the ensuing penalty from David Pastrnak that allowed the Blackhawks to double up with a PP goal 37 seconds later. Or Brandon Carlo and Torey Krug flat out getting caught flat-footed on Alex DeBrincat’s speed rush in the opening shift of the third that finally seemed to act like smelling salts to the Black and Gold.

It says something about the character and the overall talent of the team that they can continuously overcome deficits in the third period. There’s no denying they are the best team in the NHL in the final 20 minutes of the game.

They are outscoring opponents by a 2-1 margin (42-21) in the third period and have a whopping plus-21 goal differential when it comes to winning time.

But the lack of urgency out of the gate game after game of late sure looks like complacency and certainly looks like a team that knows they are far out ahead in the standings.

“Complacency? I would say no. Lack of urgency some nights? I would say yes. We’re not pushing as hard as we need to to get to our level. Is that because of where we are, is that because of last year, is that because we feel like we’re a good enough team that we can flip a switch? Probably bits and pieces of all those things, I’m not going to deny it,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Our job is to make sure we don’t get complacent. I don’t think we have been, to be honest with you. I think it would show in our record if we were.

"But, lack of urgency from period to period, absolutely. We’re going to continue to address it, but to get to your level 82 times a night for 60 games, if you feel you’re better than – you’re going to be in that second season, it is a challenge for a coach, and it’s a challenge for the players, but we’ll need [the urgency]."

The danger, of course, is that the Bruins turn into this season's version of the Tampa Bay Lightning, where they race off to such a commanding lead that they never truly face character-building adversity in the regular season. The B’s have enough experience and talent to overcome that once they are in a playoff series, which would make them demonstrably different than a Lightning team that folded like a cheap chair in four games against Columbus last spring.

But there is still very much a danger now that the Bruins can float through the rest of this regular season where they only need to win half (27) of their remaining 53 games to still get to 100 points based on their bounding start. Essentially the Bruins could play .500 hockey the rest of the way and still breeze right into the playoffs, and win the division as well.

It's difficult to stay sharp under those circumstances and it will be equally difficult to match the intensity in the postseason facing a team that will have been scratching and clawing in order to get there. Torey Krug maintained he didn’t know what kind of lead the Bruins had in the Atlantic Division standings, and that’s probably the best thing for the Bruins to do right now.

“I would say normally yes, but it doesn’t feel like we’re in that position right now,” said Krug, when asked if the Bruins need to guard against complacency. “I don’t why that is. It’s so early in the season and we’re chasing perfection, and there’s a high standard here. So maybe that’s where it comes from,  but it doesn’t feel like we’re that far ahead [of everybody else].

“We’re missing a lot of guys too, so you always feel like going into these games that you need to bring your ‘A’ game because of who we’re missing. As a veteran guy, you feel like you need to take more onto your shoulders. I’m not even sure if guys know [their lead in the Atlantic] and it’s probably a good idea to just stay in the moment.”

Clearly, Krug walks it the way he talks as it was the puck-moving D-man that notched the tying goal Thursday in the final minutes to cap off the three-goal comeback in the third period.

The one silver lining that could stoke the B’s hunger and keep them at least partially invested in the game-to-game gauntlet the next five months: The top seed in the Eastern Conference is still wide open in competition with the Capitals.

Home-ice advantage all through the playoffs is certainly something to play for and could be a difference in a conference final showdown with Washington, and that should be a carrot directly in front of the Bruins that the coaching staff can sell them on.

But at no point does it seem as if the Bruins are going to have to fight for their lives for the rest of the season and they are already close to finishing the season series with the Maple Leafs and Canadiens, rivals that are chasing them in the standings.

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Bruins' Patrice Bergeron (lower body) out Saturday against Colorado Avalanche

Bruins' Patrice Bergeron (lower body) out Saturday against Colorado Avalanche

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins will continue to be without Patrice Bergeron this weekend, but the B’s top center is making progress with his lower-body injury.

Bergeron, 34, took a positive step by participating in practice with his teammates for the first time since being injured on Friday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, though he was wearing a no-contact sweater and didn’t really mix in with his normal linemates for drills. Bruce Cassidy confirmed following practice that Bergeron won’t play Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche, but remained hopeful he may return early next week barring any setbacks.

“[He’s wearing] a red sweater; that’s good. He participated in some line rushes, but it wasn’t a heavy contact practice,” said Cassidy. “He won’t play [against Colorado], but once you have the red sweater on you’re that much closer. Monday [against Ottawa] now becomes more of a target date for us if there are no setbacks.”

It will mark the seventh straight game that Bergeron has missed with his lower-body injury and the ninth game of the past 11 games that he’s missed due to the nagging injury. The amazing thing: The Bruins have gone 6-0-2 thus far without Bergeron and have done a pretty good job of getting by having David Krejci, Charlie Coyle and others fill into his many different roles on the ice. 

Brett Ritchie skated in line drills and appears close to a return, but it remains to be seen which forward he might replace in the lineup. 

Here are the projected line combos and defense pairings based on practice Friday ahead of the big non-conference tilt Saturday against eth talented, explosive Avs:

Marchand-Coyle-Heinen

DeBrusk-Krejci-Pastrnak

Nordstrom-Kuraly-Wagner

Bjork-Lindholm-Ritchie

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Moore-Grzelcyk

 

Rask

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