Injuries continue to plague the Boston Bruins. Veterans are in and out of the lineup and there have been a lot of chances for rookies to shine. Coming into the season, defenseman Charlie McAvoy and forwards Jake Debrusk and Anders Bjork were among the most notable rookies with high expectations. But, injured big-name players have led to more room for other rookies and young stars to shine. They have stepped up in big ways.
Boston Bruins Rookies Continue to Produce
From opening night in the beginning of October to the Thanksgiving benchmark of the season, the Boston Bruins have yet to put a fully healthy line-up on the ice. From day-to-day bumps and bruises to long-term injuries and illnesses, bodies continue to fall in and out of the line-up every week. In fact, just last week, was the second time all season both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci were in the line-up together. Bergeron has played in 14 of 19 total games this season, while Krejci has only played in eight. David Backes has been battling diverticulitis and only played in five games. While Adam McQuaid was faced with a foot injury early on and has been active for six games. Torey Krug has been in for 16 and Brad Marchand has played in 14. At present, both are sitting out with injuries.
One challenge has been that these injuries have all been both staggered and non-stop. In any given game, there are two to four guys out of the line-up. For example, the first week of the season, the Bruins were without Bergeron and Backes. Their absence was most noticeable during ugly back-to-back losses to the Colorado Avalanche. In a home and home with the Toronto Maple Leafs, they were missing Krejci, Backes, and McQuaid. More recently, when the Bruins headed out to Anaheim, they were missing Krejci, Marchand, Backes, and McQuaid. These are all guys who are needed in the line-up for long-term success this season.
Rookies Producing Out West
Every team is due to battle their fair share of injuries and slumps throughout the season. The amount of injuries already faced by the Bruins the first month and a half of the season is still a lot to overcome. So, how exactly have the Bruins stayed afloat during this time? Rookies. There have been 51 Bruins’ goals this season, 16 of which have been scored by rookies, making up roughly 31%. From opening night to the latest road trip out west, rookies continue to produce for an injured Boston Bruins.
The Bruins finished up their west coast trip this past weekend. With a look at the injured players, getting just two points seemed like it would be an uphill battle. Nonetheless, Boston finished with four points and these three games were the latest case of the impact these rookies have on the roster.
Last week, the Bruins faced the LA Kings, just 24 hours after losing in Anaheim. It was Charlie McAvoy’s nifty first-period goal that gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead after one. This was his first goal since opening night. But, even without finding the back of the net, he has played a prominent role in getting the Bruins to where they are now. He sits third on the team in assists and first for rookies. McAvoy has also found himself on the top pairing with Zdeno Chara. As part of this top pair, he is averaging just over 23 minutes of ice-time per game.
On Saturday night, Boston finished the road trip with a 3-1 win over the Sharks. All three goals came at the hands of rookies. This time, it was Jake DeBrusk’s turn to step up. Boston’s first goal was a Peter Cehlarik rebound out front. This came after DeBrusk made an aggressive and flashy move past defenseman Brent Burns to get a great opportunity himself. The second Bruins’ goal and DeBrusk’s fourth of the season came after he simply outskated Burns and put one right passed goaltender Aaron Dell.
While the road trip was a good reminder of the rookie impact, it was not the first time their production resulted in two points. In fact, it was actually in the home opener that some of these rookies demonstrated the positive impact they could have this season. In a 4-3 win, McAvoy and DeBrusk both finished with a goal and an assist, while Bjork recorded an assist.
Since that home opener, the roster has been constantly shifted due to injured veterans. With so many injuries and new faces, the Bruins have lacked consistency and an identity all season. In fact, this past weekend was the first time all season they recorded back-to-back wins. While an 8-7-4 record and that statistic may not bring about much confidence or hope for the team, taking a step back to look at who has been out and the young talent’s impact shows a bright future.
Danton Heinen is another rookie who continues to produce for the Bruins. His first NHL goal came earlier in the season in a 2-goal game. Those two goals were the difference in a 2-1 win over the San Jose Sharks. His goal again against San Jose, helped ice that game on Saturday. Heinen is now fifth on the team with points and tied first among rookies, with defenseman Charlie McAvoy. He is tied fourth among goals and first among rookies as well, with Jake DeBrusk. In his 15 games this year, he is averaging over 14 minutes of ice-time while his shot total has already quadrupled the seven he had in eight games last season.
Sean Kuraly has played in all 19 games this season. A rare statistic it seems for a battered Bruins line-up. His production this year has also increased from the eight games last season. One of his goals this year came in a 2-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. The rest of his offense was key in other wins this season, including against the Arizona Coyotes and the Minnesota Wild.
The Road Ahead
The rise of Bruin’s rookies might not seem surprising. After all, someone has to do the scoring. The Bruins sit with 20 points in 19 games. Without the performance of an unexpected cast of rookies, it would be a lot worse at this point in the season.
The Bruins play tonight in New Jersey against a surprisingly strong Devils team. Then they take on the defending Stanley Cup Champions in their annual Black Friday matinee. These are two tough tests, especially for an injured line-up. As mentioned, Marchand, Backes, and Bjork have been ruled out for tonight against the Devils. However, Marchand and Backes both returned to practice yesterday. Adam McQuaid should be returning around the middle of December. Lastly, Krejci seems to be back for the time being.
The interesting task for Bruce Cassidy now is to determine where everyone fits. As these veterans return from injury, whose spot on the roster are they going to take? Heinen has shown he can handle a top 6 role, while DeBrusk seems to just be getting back to that level. But, with Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak all soon to be healthy where do those two fit? A return of David Backes and Ryan Spooner shakes the third and fourth lines up a bit for Bruce Cassidy as well.
It will be interesting to see if the rookies continue to produce. For now, the success of the Boston Bruins depends on it.