The Boston Bruins have only suited up their top players for game-action once this preseason. That’s a good sign of their overall depth. 22 players are signed to one-way contracts for 2021-22 meaning there’s not many openings available at the NHL level. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy and company are giving their young prospects and free-agents a good look through the first week and a half of training camp to see if any can fill a need or just seeing what the future holds.
The roster is pretty much set, it’s just a matter of tinkering around the edges. Cassidy has said as much during the preseason. Prior to Tuesday night’s game in New York against the Rangers, a 3-2 loss, Cassidy alluded to the eight defenseman that will be the core group. Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort, Mike Reilly, and Connor Clifton will be the top six while John Moore and Jakub Zboril will push Clifton for the sixth spot.
On the offensive side of the ice, the top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak will stay together, no surprise. If it’s not broke don’t fix it. Aside from the so-called “Perfection Line” the remaining lines are still only slightly jumbled. The Bruins have versatility and depth in the forward ranks. This is where the team will continue to tinker and toy to find the right chemistry.
Taylor Hall and Craig Smith will be the second line wingers. Jack Studnicka is projected to be in the middle there. Studnicka has bulked up this offseason and the team is hoping the 6′, 22-year-old centerman will make the jump to the next level. He scored a goal and an assist in the loss to the Rangers. He also looked strong on the puck in Thursday’s 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden.
It’s still possible that Charlie Coyle will move up into the second line in the absense of David Krejci. Coyle has been only been skating without a non-contact jersey for less than a week. It remains to be seen if Coyle will participate in Saturday night’s contest against the Rangers.
Erik Haula has been centering Nick Foligno on one wing and Jake DeBrusk on the other. This trio has so far developed into a solid third line. Haula has notched a goal and two assists in two preseason games, while Foligno picked up an assist in the victory over the Flyers.
The big difference has been the play of DeBrusk since hooking up with the two veterans. The former first-round pick has two goals in two games while netting shootout winning snipes in each game.
Jumping ahead to the fourth line it looks as if it will consist of Curtis Lazar between Trent Frederic and Tomas Nosek. This trio has skated together throughout camp and looked good against the Rangers. However, on Tuesday after practice, Cassidy said that there are four guys vying for this line including Chris Wagner.
Wagner is going to make the squad, it’s just a matter of his role. The former fifth-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks has fought tooth and nail to get this far into his eight-year NHL career.
“I’m never comfortable,” said the Walpole, Mass native. “I haven’t been comfortable in 10 years. I just try to the best I can. Work as hard as anybody on the ice. Be physical, forecheck, penalty kill, all that, and try to be an asset to help the team win.”
“The beauty of this is that all four guys can play center,” said Cassidy of the fourth line. “So there is room to shuffle the chairs around too. There’s no automatic that there will just be one guy out all the time.”
“It’s a good problem to have,” added Cassidy.
Indeed it is, as the team still has the likes of Karsen Kuhlman, Cameron Hughes, Anton Blidh, and Oskar Steen looking to make the squad.
The goaltending will be split between Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. The two started each game of the preseason so far. Swayman made 18 saves on 19 shots on Sunday against the Washington Capitals while Ullmark made 11 of 13 saves. Both played 30 minutes of each game.
Swayman went the distance in Thursday’s home opener against the Philadelphia Flyers stopping 16 of 18 shots. Ullmark is scheduled to play the full game against the New York Rangers on Saturday night at TD Garden.
“I think it’ll be more month to month, performance-driven,” said Cassidy of the goaltending duties. “It’s not determined one will be definitely the number one or not. There’s more competition than there ever has been.”
The team has already trimmed the training camp group down by sending first round draft pick Fabian Lysell to the Vancouver Giants of the WHL and third-rounder Brett Harrison to the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.
After Thursday’s game Cassidy said he will meet with GM Don Sweeney to discuss roster moves going forward.
“Donnie and I will talk tonight,” said Cassidy. “I think there’s a plan in place some of the guys. There’s certainly some American League contracts, the guys that are still here. We’re going to try to work with one main group, and obviously the game in Philly (Monday October 4) probably will be the last chance to look at more of the younger guys.”
“There will be cuts over the next two or three days,” added the coach. “Whether they’re all at once or trimmed half a dozen or so. I’ll have to get with Donnie on that.”
As of Friday evening there are no announcements in regards to roster moves. The line-up for Saturday night’s game against the Rangers will be similar that used on Thursday.