Projecting a healthy Bruins lineup for the playoffs
With the Bruins ticket to the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs officially booked, the attention will quickly shift to the NHL’s second season. Sure, there is plenty left to play for in the Bruins remaining 10 games, but the most important task over the next few weeks will be getting and then staying healthy.
The Bruins trail the Tampa Bay Lightning by four points for first in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. The Bruins do have a game in hand, and will also see the Lightning twice more — at home on March 29, and in Tampa on April 3.
Baring a big-time collapse and a near perfect run by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Bruins, at worst, should sit comfortably in the second Atlantic seed.
Providing the Bruins are given a clean bill of health when the playoffs begin on April 11, head coach Bruce Cassidy and company will have some difficult decisions to make. With 15 capable forwards and eight defensemen all worthy of playoff minutes, management and coaching staff will have to try and find the perfect forward and defensive groups as they look to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs.
Let’s take a look at what the Bruins lineup could look like come Game 1.
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak
By far the easiest trio to assemble, the Bruins top line can skate with the best of them. In fact, they arguably are the best of them in the entire National Hockey league. The chemistry that has developed between Marchand and Bergeron over time has been a thing of beauty. Inserting Pastrnak early in the season proved to be the right move and the line has taken off from there.
With Bergeron sidelined of late due to a foot injury, Marchand and Pastrnak have continued their scoring ways. The Bergeron line will continue to be a handful to contain come mid-April.
Jake DeBrusk-David Krejci-Rick Nash
You know what you’re going to get from the Bergeron line, but the Bruins’ second line will be the key to their success. DeBrusk has had his share of ups and downs during his rookie season, but he was playing his best hockey of the year prior to going down with his recent upper-body injury.
Krejci has been cruising along with another consistent season on the second line. But with the playoffs just weeks away, we are starting to see the playoff version of Krejci come to life. With the injury bug hitting the Bruins hard, Krejci has elevated his game and is playing some of the best hockey we’ve seen from Krejci in years. We’ve seen in the past what Krejci can do with big power forwards — like Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton — which made the trade for Rick Nash make so much sense.
Nash got off to a nice start with the Bruins and developed immediate chemistry with Krejci. The former Ranger is battling through an injury but should be ready to go for the playoffs. With a poor playoff track record on his resume, Nash hopes to sing a different tune with his new team.
Ryan Donato-Riley Nash-David Backes
The third line is where the decision making starts to come into play. With two games under his belt since he ditched Harvard, Ryan Donato is showing the world the NHL stage is not too high for the 21-year old. Donato has two goals and two assists in his first two NHL games and looks completely comfortable skating alongside the best in the world.
What more can you ask for from Riley Nash? He’s played up and down the lineup and is doing a tremendous job filling the void left by Bergeron on the Bruins top line as of late. Nash has developed into one of the Bruins most reliable two-way forwards. He’s provided stability in the defensive zone, proved to be beneficial inside the faceoff circle and has chipped in offensively.
David Backes has been a big part of the Bruins success and they’ll need that to continue in the playoffs. Backes has run into some tough luck of late between injuries and a three-game suspension. It will be interesting to see how Backes compliments Donato’s game once he returns.
Tim Schaller-Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari
The Bruins fourth line will be the most difficult to put together. With six guys in the mix for three spots, the fourth line may be where you see the most mixing and matching until the best trio is created. The line of Schaller, Kuraly and Acciari has found much success so far this season and the three should get the chance to replicate that in the playoffs.
Waiting in the wings if any of the three falter are Danton Heinen, Tommy Wingels and Brian Gionta. The trio are more than capable to fill in if needed.