October 8, 2014 isn’t a long time away from now, but there is still much to be decided before the opening night of the season for the Boston Bruins; especially after a less than desirable exit at the hands of their arch rivals, the Montreal Canadiens in round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. Although training camp didn’t officially start until late last week, current Bruins, prospects, and rookies have been finding their way to Ristuccia Arena well ahead of organized team activities. Here’s what to watch for as the Bruins begin their quest toward Lord Stanley’s Cup.
-The Bruins return a solid core on offense headed into the season, but unlike training camp in the previous years, there seem to be anywhere from 1-4 available positions for the big club. Following the departures of Shawn Thornton and Jarome Iginla, the Bruins are looking to add two more wingers to their roster. However, there could be a third slot available if restricted free agent, Reilly Smith remains unsigned. While the talent pool of prospects the Bruins have brought in seems prominent with names like Alexander Khokhlachev and Ryan Spooner, among many others, Reilly Smith seems like the first option to make the club, should he re-sign with Boston.
-Another name making a lot of buzz since the NHL Entry Draft is David Pastranak. The 18 year old rookie has shown a lot of skill and maturity in his short time with the Bruins, and while this writer would like to see him make the team as the 13th forward, his size and toughness will be brought into question in the coming weeks. However, he will be given every chance to make the team as he has impressed a lot of the Bruins brass since being drafted 25th overall in June.
-The Bruins have also brought in veterans like Simon Gagne and Ville Leino for training camp. Gagne has been a solid player for the various teams he’s been with over his career, but that has to be taken with a grain of salt due to his injury history. Leino is coming off another disappointing season in Buffalo, after a promising start to his career in Philadelphia. His style of play could fit in well with the Bruins, but Boston may want to add younger, more skilled players to its 2014-2015 roster.
-Returning Forwards: P. Bergeron, B. Marchand, M. Lucic, D. Krejci, L. Eriksson, C. Soderberg, C. Kelly, G. Campbell, D. Paille, J. Caron(?).
-On the defensive end, the Bruins return one of the better shutdown units in the National Hockey League led by Zdeno Chara. Although it may seem like he has regressed in his recent years, much of the Bruins success lies with him.
-Personally, the storyline on the defensive side of the ice I’m looking forward to is the development of Dougie Hamilton. There will be a day when Chara retires, and at age 21, Dougie Hamilton looks to be the future of the defensive unit for Boston.
-The Bruins also hope to resign restricted free agent Torey Krug. Krug was integratl to both the Bruins back end and provided a spark on the power play. Although Bruins GM, Peter Chiarelli, believes they have 9 NHL caliber defenseman, it’s imperative to resign Krug due to the spark he provides with his offensive skill.
-Returning Defensemen: Z. Chara, D. Seidenberg, J. Boychuk, D. Hamilton, A. McQuaid, K. Millar, M. Bartkowski
-Now this is an easy one. Tuukka Rask will be between the pipes for the Bruins this season, and as the defending Vezina Trophy winner for the year’s best goaltender, he makes sure the Boston has a chance at 2 points every time they hit the ice.
-The Bruins backup goaltender position remains somewhat of a question. Last season, Chad Johnson performed extremely well in his as Tuukka’s backup, but with his departure the Bruins look to Niklas Svedberg or Malcolm Subban.
-Svedberg looks like the front runner due to his experience with minor league Providence Bruins, but Subban is progressing at a rapid rate and could surprise some in training camp. Ultimately, I believe the job will go to Svedberg, leaving Subban as the number 1 goalie in Providence for a few years to come.
Returning Goaltender: Tuukka Rask
There you have it ladies and gents, the state of the Boston Bruins just a few short weeks ahead of the season opener. The Bruins return a solid team that is most certainly a Stanley Cup contender. However, a lot of roster question marks remain after an early departure in the playoffs last season, but hopefully they will be answered in the coming weeks. Many of the returning players have been left with a bad taste in their mouth after a game 7 home loss to bitter rival, Montreal, so look for them to be hungry for a shot at redemption and ultimately another Stanley Cup this coming season. A lot can happen between then and now so look for another update or two prior to the first puck drop at the Garden, but until then Go Bruins!
p.s. As we get into the season, these will most certainly get shorter, but in the meantime, thanks for reading.