The fourth line: thing to watch as the puck drops on the Bruins Season
Joseph Griswold, Asst. Sports Editor
The Bruins were just 60 minutes away from hoisting the Stanley Cup last year. However, rather than hoisting the cup in glorious victory they had to watch as the St. Louis Blues celebrate on TD Garden Ice. With the puck set to drop on Thursday, against the Dallas Stars here are four storylines to focus on as the Bruins look for redemption in the upcoming season.
First Line: The first storyline is aptly focused around the first line of the Bruins. Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand are arguably one of the best lines in all of hockey. However, over the last two postseason, this line has disappeared when it matters most. The start to the season will give a glimpse into the possibility of shuffling one of the most dominant regular season lines in hopes of developing new chemistry that can be sustained in the playoffs. One of the possibilities is moving Pastrnak down a line to play with David Krejci and Charlie Coyle which could provide speed, skill and size that could provide mismatches across the league.
Second Line: New England teams are best known not for their stars, but for their next-man-up mentality. The Bruins success last year was due in large part to contributing young players that rose to the occasion when asked. This season, the relatively no-name players are now known, and are expected to prove even more. Young defensemen like Connor Clifton and Matt Grzelcyk will be expected to continue their fast rise and provide speed and skill to the blue line. Newcomers like Jared Studnicka will look to be able to produce when called upon. The NHL is trending towards a game of speed and skill. Therefore, if the Bruins want to compete again, they will have to lean on their young players.
Third Line: Part of the immediate need for production of younger talent is the loss of some veteran players this offseason. One of the most dominant players last postseason was forward Marcus Johannsson. However, with his exit to New Jersey, the Bruins will need to find a competent third line center. Rhode Island native and fourth-line-grinder, Noel Acciari, also left heading to Florida. There are questions on the fourth line which was one of the Bruins’ most significant advantages last season. With some talent going out and no big name free agent acquisitions the Bruins will have to rely on the talent within the organization to drive them back to a title shot.
Fourth Line: Perhaps the biggest storyline going into the season is Tuukka Rask. By far, Rask played his most dominant postseason as a Bruins goalie, but still fell short in game 7 allowing 2 goals on the first 4 shots. Despite having his highest career playoff save percentage, the “big game” doubts still surround Rask and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the heartbreak of a game 7 home loss.
The Bruins have the talent and the drive to contend for the Stanley Cup this year. However, there is no doubt that they were the beneficiaries of some lucky eliminations last season. This is a virtual must win season for the Bruins. With an aging core and goaltender, the Bruins’ chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup is becoming slimmer every year. If the Bruins do not want to feel the emptiness of a cup loss again they must play with the understanding that this may be their last shot.