By Jeff Mannix
Television Voice of University of Maine Black Bears Men’s Ice Hockey Host, Saturday Morning Jab, WJJB 96.3/92.5 FM The Big Jab Sports Radio Executive Producer, Maine Red Claws Radio Network
Hungry Bruins Seek Continued Progress
The opening week of the 2018-19 season is upon us! The Boston Bruins are part of the league’s opening night showcase as they start the season in Washington as the Capitals raise the team’s first Stanley Cup banner at Capital One Arena this Wednesday night.
After a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division last year, the B’s won a playoff series for the first time in four years. Now with Bruce Cassidy at the helm for his second full season, the B’s will look to make another step in the team’s quest to win its seventh Stanley Cup title.
Up front, the Bruins will boast one of the most prolific scoring lines in the league with the trio of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak. Boston’s second line will likely feature a couple of youngsters, Jake DeBrusk along with either rookie Ryan Donato or Anders Bjork, on the wing with veteran playmaker David Krejci.
The bottom two lines should be led by returning youngsters with veteran David Backes, and some depth signings made in the summer. The B’s added two-way center Joakim Nordstrom from Carolina as well as Massachusetts native and Anaheim product Chris Wagner on the right wing. Peter Cehlarik, who saw some time in Boston last year, and Trent Frederic, the 29th overall selection in the 2016 draft, also are expected to play a significant portion of the year in Boston.
On defense, the Bruins made two noticeable changes with the addition of New Jersey Devils veteran John Moore and the trade of fan favorite Adam McQuaid to the New York Rangers for Steven Kampfer, who returns to the team after playing parts of two seasons in Boston between 2010 and 2012.
Moore has some scoring prowess but will most likely be looked upon to help spell Zdeno Chara and take some of his minutes in key situations. Kampfer will likely be the team’s six or seventh defenseman. The McQuaid trade also paves the way for Kevan Miller, a defenseman with a similar snarl to that of McQuaid, to gain even more time on the ice. Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk will be back for their second full seasons, while Brandon Carlo is back for his third after recovering from the broken leg that ended his 2017-18 season.
Torey Krug, one of the game’s best offensive defenseman, may miss some time at the start of the year due to injury. Urho Vaakanainen, Boston’s 2017 first round draft pick, may play some time in Boston this season as well. He will likely spend most of his time in Providence with the Bruins AHL affiliate.
In goal, Tuukka Rask will be the man between the pipes again. Boston did upgrade its backup goalie in the offseason, signing former Lewiston MAINEiacs netminder and NHL journeyman Jaroslav Halak from the New York Islanders. The 33-year-old has been a starting goalie in the league before, including last year when he started 49 games with the Isles. He’s also been a starter with the St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, and Washington Capitals. In 2010, he backstopped Montreal, the eighth-seed in the East that year, all the way to the Eastern Conference Final. He’s a proven big game goaltender who will help take pressure off Rask and can provide insurance in case Rask falters.
The Bruins hope to be near the top in the Atlantic Division again but will have to contend with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs after the addition of one of the league’s best players, John Tavares.
The Bruins should be poised to make another run to the playoffs in 2019. GM Don Sweeney decided to take the patient approach and stick with his developing young corps rather than trade pieces from it to add veterans and make a run this year. The team may still be good enough to challenge for the Cup, but the team’s true contender status is likely still a year or two away.
BY: Jeff Mannix
Television Voice of University of Maine Black Bears Men’s Ice Hockey Host
Saturday Morning Jab, WJJB 96.3/92.5 FM The Big Jab Sports Radio
Executive Producer, Maine Red Claws Radio Network