By: Carolyn Mooney
With the Boston Bruins' veterans aging, their lineup has been somewhat "young" lately. Some may call it a "youth-movement," but I would say its giving the Bruins a chance to incorporate speed into their system.
Today's practice lines consisted of five rookies; two defensemen and three forwards. DeBrusk skating with Krejci and Pastrnak, Bjork skating with Marchand and Spooner, Kuraly skating with Beleskey and Vatrano, McAvoy paired with Miller, and Grzelcyk paired with McQuaid.
Over the past few years, and ever since Claude Julien took over as the Boston Buins' head coach, the Boston Bruins have been known for their hard-hitting, gritty style of play. A type of system that fast, skilled players did not have the opportunity to show off their speed and creativity. Julien's system was defense-based, another factor into why rookies and forwards did not have the chance to prosper at the NHL level.
Granted in 2011 this system brought a Stanley Cup back to Boston for the first time in 41 years, but since then the game has changed dramatically. Sure hard hitting is still a huge part of the game, but the pace of play has quickened and defense-based systems have fell apart...exactly what happened to Julien's.
When Bruce Cassidy was announced head coach of the Boston Bruins this past season, any Bruins fan could see a dramatic change in how the Bruins played; they skated faster, the defense got more involved in the play, and players were able to just play their style and have fun. But one change really stuck out to me.
He played the young guys.
Bringing McAvoy to the team for the postseason was probably one of the smartest moves the Bruins front office and management had ever made. He finished the postseason with zero goals and three assists in six games.
But the question remains for which pairing the rookie defenseman should be on. Should he be paired with Chara, Krug when he returns, or stay on the second pair with Miller?
The other rookie defenseman, Grzelcyk, seems to be playing great with McQauid for the third pair. Grzelcyk recorded six goals and 26 assists for 32 points in 70 games for the Providence Bruins.
Last season it seemed as if the Bruins were playing one line of forwards. Machand and Pastrnak were the only players scoring and getting involved in all the plays. Whenever the Bruins' first line was not on the ice, the team seemed to be lost. With the acquisitions of DeBrusk, Bjork, and Kuraly however, hopefully this will not be the same case this upcoming season.
Bjork comes out of the University of Notre Dame. Last season he notched 21 goals and 31 assists for a total of 52 points in 39 games for the University. Hoping to create more offense, Cassidy has put Bjork on the first line with Marchand and Bergeron and moved Pastrnak to the second line.
Also on the second line is rookie left-winger, Jake DeBrusk. The first round pick had 19 goals and 30 assists for 49 points in 74 games for the Providence Bruins last season.
And then there's the guy who kept the Bruins alive during the 2017 postseason, Sean Kuraly. Kuraly, most notable for his double-overtime goal to keep the Bruins in the postseason, has found a spot on the third line possibly centering Beleskey and Vatrano. For the Providence Bruins, he recorded 14 goals and 12 assists for 26 points in 54 games last season.
There is room for these rookies to prosper, especially when there's a mix of veterans and experience. It will be a pleasure to watch players like McAvoy and Bjork bring their talents to this some-what aging team and push the veterans to play to their limits every game.
I have one thing to say and one thing only after watching what these rookies are capable to do, and seeing how this team can play when everyone is on their A game.
Do not sleep on the Boston Bruins.
Photo: CBS Boston