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With the Boston Bruins’ season opener on Oct. 6 fast approaching, Sports of Boston concludes its 2011 preview with the forwards. Let’s look line-by-line at who might be scoring for the Bruins.
The Bruins’ first line is unlikely to change after a fantastic postseason. Center David Krejci led all NHL players with 12 playoff goals and 23 points. Right winger Nathan Horton added eight goals and 17 points despite missing the final four games of the Stanley Cup with a concussion, and left winger Milan Lucic chipped in five and 12. All this came after the trio scored a combined 69 goals and 177 points in the regular season.
This line mixes fire power with a fiery attitude. Krejci provides a strong anchor, able to both pass (he led the line with 49 assists) and shoot. Horton, meanwhile, might be the best pure shooter on the team. He can attack the goal from many angles and distances, and teams have to keep a lock on him the moment he gets into those circles.
Lucic is both a shooter and a spark plug, and as an unabashed brawler, he’s become quite popular among Bruins fans. He’ll mix it up with anyone, and his size and speed make him hard to out-muscle on the ice. His agility has led to so many exciting step-around moves, and his shot-strength is such that one risks missing the play entirely by blinking whenever he shoots.
Two-thirds of the Bruins’ second line is back. Left winger Brad Marchand will try to follow a fantastic postseason in which he scored 11 goals, including two in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. It’s odd however, that it took Marchand over three times as many regular-season games (77) to score fewer than double that many goals (21). With just two seasons under his belt, Marchand is still developing as an NHL player. His positioning and hockey IQ are fantastic, but the execution isn’t there yet. Marchand also needs to find a way to channel his intensity so as to avoid spending so much time in the penalty box (40 postseason minutes).
At center on the second line is Patrice Bergeron, whose goals and points have increased every season since his season-ending concussion in October 2007. Bergeron is a strong face-off center for the Bruins, which makes him especially useful on power plays. Bergeron’s 11 power-play points in 2010 make him the best center currently on the roster.
Right wing belongs to Rich Peverley, who last season scored 18 goals and 41 points. He also scored two goals in the Bruins’ Game 3 victory over the Canucks, showing great chemistry with Bergeron and Marchand. With Mark Recchi retired, Peverley should become the regular second-line right wing. He’s already scored two goals with the second line early in preseason.
Because the Bruins have so many centers (17 on the roster as of Sept. 26), they might try some out at wing in their third and fourth lines. Only center Chris Kelly returns from last year’s third line. Kelly scored 14 goals and 28 points during the regular season, but he stepped up in the playoffs, putting up five and eight. His six points against the Canadiens in the first round greatly helped the Bruins get over the Montreal hump, and his four assists against the Lightning two rounds later gave some depth in an exhausting series for the Bruins.
Tyler Seguin (11 goals, 11 assists in regular season) may also compete with Kelly for third-line center. Seguin showed brief periods of flash unlike anything the Bruins have elsewhere. He can fly down the ice when he stays in control, and he has the young-man’s arrogance to try craftier shooting and passing techniques if he thinks they might work.
Left winger Daniel Paille will probably move up to the third line, bringing with him 13 regular-season and six postseason points. Paille is also fantastic on penalty-kills, one of only five forwards to record a short-handed goal during the 2010-11 season.
Who will play right wing on the third line is still unclear, but Shawn Thornton seems like the most likely choice. Thornton’s 10 goals and 10 assists aren’t exactly eye-popping, but his attitude and aggressiveness may free up shots for Paille and especially Seguin. He’s the most veteran Bruin still available at right wing.
Least clear for the Bruins is who will comprise their fourth line if both Thornton and Paille move up. Gregory Campbell, his 29 points and strong penalty-killing skills means he’ll once again anchor at center, but who will play wing for him? Right winger Kirk MacDonald has scored 29 points in his last two seasons with the Providence Bruins, but Chris Clark has been in the league since 1994. Clark is nowhere near the 30-goal player he was in 2006, but his experience might give him the edge.
At left wing, Benoit Pouliot still has gas left in the tank. Though 34, Pouliot scored 30 points for the Canadiens last season. He might move up the depth chart if he learns the Bruins system quickly, but at the very least he’s the most NHL-savvy of the remaining right wings.
Tags: Benoit Pouliot, Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Chris Clark, Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille, David Krejci, Gregory Campbell, Kirk MacDonald, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, NHL, Patrice Bergeron, Rich Peverley, Shawn Thornton, Tyler Seguin