The Boston Bruins had a successful season concluded by a near miss. As they were one game away from winning their seventh Stanley Cup, the St. Louis Blues got better of them in Game 7 at TD Garden. Now, the Bruins turn the page. In two months, a new regular season begins. The Boston Bruins lines changed all season long last year. Will they continue to juggle their lineup again during the upcoming season? Projecting the 2019-20 Boston Bruins lineup might seem like a bit of a mystery.
Projecting the 2019-20 Boston Bruins Lineup
A lot has changed since the 12th of June when the Boston Bruins played Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. They lost that game, which left many players and fans bitter and down. Just a few weeks after that disappointing Game 7 loss, management needed to move on as the draft and free agency began. That said, the Bruins have not seen major changes. The 2019-20 Boston Bruins lineup and formations shouldn’t see a huge difference due to those off-season moves.
The Boston Bruins lost several key players in the offseason. Forward Marcus Johansson signed with the Buffalo Sabres. Johansson, acquired at the trade deadline, was a pleasant addition to the Bruins in the playoffs. Struggling to settle in Boston immediately following the trade, the Swede turned out to have a major impact in the spring. Replacing him on the third line will be the biggest challenge for the Bruins.
The Bruins also lost forward Noel Acciari, who developed into one of the highest-ranked fourth-liners in the NHL. Acciari can score, kill penalties, win faceoffs and play both wings. Unfortunately, the Bruins couldn’t pay him what he asked. That said, they have plenty of quality players available to take over his fourth-line duties. They could afford to lose Acciari.
As of the newcomers, forwards Brett Ritchie and Par Lindholm are the most notable additions. They also made several other depth signings, but as of now, none are expected to make a big impact in October.
Forward Lines – Top Six
Last year, the Bruins top line was well established. That was the job for David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron. David Krejci, coming off a 73-point season, centred the second line with Jake DeBrusk on the left-wing. Right-wing duties were up for grabs almost the entire season. That’s probably still the most significant hole in the Bruins lineup.
In our 2019-20 Boston Bruins lineup projection, the Bruins top line should stay the same. Last year, Brad Marchand had 124 points combined (playoffs included), David Pastrnak had 100 points and Patrice Bergeron had 96 points. They are still one of the most dangerous formations in the NHL. With all this success, it would be foolish to split this trio up.
As of the second line, David Krejci‘s combination with Jake DeBrusk would stay intact. The problem for the Bruins will be to find a right-winger on this line. The truth is that the Bruins don’t have a perfect suitor for this role. Taking a look at the recently ended playoffs, the best fit on that line seemed to be Karson Kuhlman. In the playoffs at even-strength, DeBrusk-Krejci-Kuhlman combination played a total of 58:25 of the ice-time in eight games posting some really solid digits. Their CF% was at 58.26 percent, their xGF% was at 63.01 percent and their FF% at 57.78 percent. If they can maintain their chemistry, Kuhlman deserves a chance on that second line.
Forward lines – Bottom Six
The aforementioned third line suffered a back-breaker with Johansson’s departure. The third line, which was so successful during the playoffs, was practically created at the Trade Deadline. The Bruins acquired Charlie Coyle from the Minnesota Wild and that trade still seems like a golden move for the Bruins. Coyle solidified that third-line center position in a big way. His chemistry with Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson provided a lot of goals.
Keeping the 28-year-old Swedish left-winger proved to be pricey for the Bruins. Nevertheless, the combination of Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle should stay the same. Heinen can skate on both wings, but it’s more convenient for him to play on that left side. The new acquisition would get his spot on this third line. Brett Ritchie might have scored only six points last year, but this is a new start for him. Two years ago, Ritchie posted 28 points.
Acciari’s departure means Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner need a new linemate. Joakim Nordstrom looks like the most likely player to slot into Acciari’s role this year. The 2019-20 Boston Bruins lineup will get a ton of support and reliability from their fourth line, yet again.
The 2019-20 Boston Bruins defensive core will be their most important part once again. It’s not a secret that the Bruins lean on their very well oiled defensive system. That will continue in the upcoming season as well. In this line projection, we expect both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo playing key roles. Even though they might not be ready for the beginning of the season with their contract situations still up in the air.
Nevertheless, the Bruins brought back their captain Zdeno Chara for one more season. He will continue to get the first defensive pair duties together with McAvoy. In the playoffs, they combined for 342:13 of the ice-time in 22 total games at even-strength. Their CF% was at 45.87 percent and their xGF% at 50.94 percent. Their stats might not seem as strong as many would expect but they faced the toughest opposition. Besides, there is an important “father-and-son” style teaching factor.
On the second pair, Torey Krug paired with Brandon Carlo played 313:34 of the ice-time at even-strength in the playoffs. Their CF% was at 52.41 percent and their xGF% at 56.78 percent. They looked just fine, with Krug driving offense and Carlo laying his body around and being a tough go even for the biggest opposite threats.
The third pair looks to feature Matt Grzelcyk as the settled piece on the left-side of the Bruins defence beside Connor Clifton, who impressed in the playoffs. They spent 100:09 of the ice-time at even-strength together, posting the CF% at 58.56 percent and xGF% at 62.13 percent.
From the 2019-20 Boston Bruins lineup and formations projection, the goaltending is a clear no-brainer. Only two goaltenders will get the starts in the Bruins net over the next season. Their names are Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Halak appeared in 40 regular-season games as a starter last year and post a .922 save percentage and 2.34 goals-against-average. Halak’s strong play let the Bruins rest Rask more often. That made Rask fresher for the postseason.
In the playoffs, Rask looked as sharp as ever. He has been a reliable netminder for the Boston Bruins for years now, but that playoffs were probably his best since 2013 Stanley Cup playoff run. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t deliver the city of Boston the Stanley Cup glory either time. Expect Halak to get another healthy portion of the playing time.
2019-20 Boston Bruins lineup Honourable Mentions and Notes
Comparing this 2019-20 Boston Bruins lineup projection with the recently concluded playoffs, not much has changed. Still, there have been a few changes. With this projection, the Bruins would have to leave players earning a hefty pay on the shelf. David Backes would start the season in Providence to free up approximately one million in salary cap space for the Bruins. Par Lindholm, Anders Bjork, and Peter Cehlarik look to be the odd men out.
Bjork should start the season in Providence after his back-to-back shoulder surgeries. Interesting note, although Peter Cehlarik is on a two-way deal, he needs to clear waivers before being sent down to Providence in the AHL. Lindholm is likely the 13th forward.
For the defensive part, both John Moore and Kevan Miller are projected to begin the season on the injured reserve list. As we already mentioned in our Bruins salary cap issues piece, both might be traded at some point to free up some salary-cap space. The Bruins will look to have their seventh as well as the eighth defenceman ready to play. These roles could be filled by Steven Kampfer, Moore or Miller and/or Urho Vaakanainen and Jeremy Lauzon from the Providence Bruins.