Early-season line combinations are not usually this difficult to predict, especially when we’ve seen some early returns from these groupings. The youth movement is on, necessitated with the earliest injuries possible to top center Patrice Bergeron and utility defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller. The youth had ample opportunity in the preseason, and now it’s time to see them perform on the NHL level... for REAL.
Below are the practice lines from today, with some quick takes on the combination. Let us know if you feel differently.
Forward line combinations
Brad Marchand - David Backes - David Pastrnak
The loss of Patrice Bergeron to an injury is an early-season blow, yes; reportedly (and hopefully), not for long. Who else should skate in Bergeron’s place tomorrow night BUT David Backes?! Another center who’s solid in both directions centering Marchand and Pastrnak sounds like a great combination.
With the two-way play of Marchand and Backes, and Pastrnak poised to have a breakout year after pre-preseason preparations for the World Cup, these three will be backchecking machines. Both Marchand and Pastrnak feast on neutral zone turnovers and it’s not too much to assume that Backes will provide similar support. (Read: he’s not Bergeron, so let’s not get outta hand.) These dudes will play more than the Krejci line late in a close game.
Ryan Spooner - David Krejci - Danton Heinen
The only reason this line is listed second is because coach Claude Julien is likely to shelter Heinen’s minutes. We could see Jimmy Hayes or Matt Beleskey on this line late in the game, especially if the Bruins are trailing at all. Claude does enjoy rolling four lines so let’s hope that strategy provides results early.
Krejci and Spooner routinely possess the puck, drawing attention away from their linemates, from which Heinen should benefit. Plus, if either of them have the puck, the other is likely open. This... this could be a fun trio.
Matt Beleskey - Austin Czarnik - Jimmy Hayes
Thankfully, according to Coach Julien, no ill effects from Czarnik’s concussion diagnosis from Saturday’s game. Typically one might like to see him sit for a little more time to be safe, but if the doctors are OK with it, so are we.
With the energy of Czarnik and the weight of Beleskey and Hayes against the boards, this should be a minute-munching line, provided they can plow their way through the neutral zone and pin it on Columbus. How productive they’ll be is TBD, but with some strong pushes and dedicated offseasons from Beleskey and Hayes, we should see Julien use the depth to the Bruins’ advantage, especially this early in the season.
Dominic Moore - Riley Nash - Noel Acciari
The 2016 Merlot line has some heft to it - every player here exceeds 200 pounds and has years of NHL experience in Moore and Nash - and, Acciari has had another offseason to prepare. Tim Schaller skated with this line today, though he is likely to be the odd man out. With Bergeron sidelined, Claude will want to have as much experience as possible this deep in the lineup.
Zdeno Chara - Brandon Carlo
We’ve seen/heard quite a bit about this pairing - with Carlo’s demonstrated range and undisputable size, it’ll just be a matter of how easily he can absorb knowledge from Chara. If he survives without much error before McQuaid returns, he’ll likely stick here; history may show us, as Dougie and the Trotman/Chiller combo last year
Torey Krug - Rob O'Gara
O’Gara made a similar impression as Carlo in the preseason - reliable enough to pair with Krug, and with his size, potentially covering a bit larger area than Krug’s partners from last season. If Carlo’s pairing with Chara is to train him to be more defensively responsible by example, then this is the opposite - O’Gara can react to Krug’s game pace and learn a bit more about zone exits.
John-Michael Liles - Colin Miller
It’ll be interesting to see who protects who here. Liles is advancing in age, though he’s adjusted well; Chiller absorbed what he could playing with Chara last year, so he’s being asked to handle at least a bit closer to half the task. Should Claude shorten his defensive bench, Liles is liable to pair with Krug and we could see Chiller double-shift with Chara.
Joe Morrow was the odd defenseman today, so we’ll likely see the top six listed above.
Do you expect Schaller or Morrow to be in the lineup? Who gets scratched instead? Are you concerned with these lines/pairings? Let us know!