The 2018-2019 NHL season got underway this week and by this point the Bruins are already two games into the regular season, including an ugly loss to defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Washington Capitals. Here’s what to look for in the coming weeks as the young Bruins team hopes to improve on last season.
The challenge for the Bruins offense this season is to avoid becoming the one-line team that they were last Stanley Cup Playoffs. Boston has two strong veteran linemates in Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The question will be, does Cassidy put David Pastrnak on their wing, creating a an explosive first line that will rival any other in the NHL, or does he attempt to balance the first six by putting Pastrnak back with David Krejci? Either way, the Bruins do have promising young forwards in Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, and Jake DeBrusk, all of whom will contend for one of the two remaining top-six spots and have the potential to become great second options on the Krejci line.
The Bruins blue line is also full of young talent, many of whom will be relied upon to step up this season as the 41-year old Captain Zdeno Chara sees fewer and fewer minutes with each passing season. Torey Krug led the D-unit in points last season, but due to an ankle injury in Bruins’ last preseason game Krug will sit for at least 3-4 weeks, forcing the B’s to juggle their D pairs in these opening weeks. The Charlestown native, Matt Grzelcyk, too is nursing a preseason injury, but started this week and will be tasked with making up for Krug’s offensive production. For now the fate of the Boston blue line lies primarily with Grzelcyk and Charlie Mcavoy, two Boston University products.
Between the Pipes
The Bruins added goaltender Jaroslav Halak to their roster this off-season to compensate for the loss of Anton Khudobin to free agency. Tuuka Rask comes off an underwhelming season with a 2.36 goals-against-average and .917 save percentage, far from his best numbers with Boston. Halak will not only provide solid back-up goaltending and relief for Rask, but will hopefully push Rask to maintain his starting spot and produce numbers closer to his demonstrated full potential.
Ryan Donato has had a busy year, from leading team USA with five goals in PyeongChang to earning nine points (five goals and four assists) in 12 games with the Bruins during his debut at the end of last season. Donato represents the youth of this Bruins team and is poised for a breakout rookie season. The Crimson-turned-Bruin was seemingly everywhere this summer––the Foxboro Pro League, Bruins events throughout New England, and on the scoresheet in China––all to ensure that he earns a spot in the top two lines in these first few weeks. Donato could be the answer to Boston’s production struggles outside of its first line and if given top-six minutes and power play action, he could even make a run for the Calder Trophy.