What Chiasson, Farinacci signings bring to Bruins
The Bruins' roster underwent a ton of turnover this summer, especially at forward. With Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tyler Bertuzzi, Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek and Garnet Hathaway all gone, Boston coach Jim Montgomery has his work cut out for him when it comes to assembling his lines and figuring out which combinations are going to work best.
In an interview with Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald that was published on Sunday, Montgomery shared some of his early thoughts on what his lines might look like.
As was the case last year, albeit with a higher overall talent level, Montgomery is inclined to spread the wealth when it comes to his top two lines, putting stars David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand on different units.
Pastrnak will be paired with Pavel Zacha as his center after the two spent much of last season together -- mostly with Zacha on left wing on the "Czech Line" with Krejci at center, but also with Zacha at center later in the year and into the playoffs when Krejci missed time due to injury.
Veteran free-agent signing James van Riemsdyk is expected to get the first shot on Zacha's left. The 34-year-old had a bit of a down season last year, recording 12 goals and 17 assists in 61 games for the Philadelphia Flyers, but he did score 24 goals the year before. The Bruins will need van Riemsdyk to finish the chances Zacha and Pastrnak are sure to create for him if he's going to stick in such a prominent role.
Montgomery's other top-six line to start will be Marchand on the left with Charlie Coyle at center and Jake DeBrusk on the right. That's a combination that got some time together late in the regular season and early in the first round of the playoffs when Bergeron missed some games (first due to rest, then due to injury). In the 60 minutes that trio played together at 5-on-5, the Bruins out-attempted opponents 74-57 (56.5% Corsi) and outscored them 3-2.
Coyle also started the 2021-22 season as a top-six center after Krejci departed for a season in Europe, but eventually slid back to his usual third-line center role with Erik Haula moving up to the second line. Coyle will be expected to hold onto the job for longer this time around, aided by two wings who have played together for more than a season.
Things really get interesting after that, with Montgomery acknowledging the third and fourth lines will be a "work in progress."
"Everything else is going to be a work in progress," he said. "The great thing is there's lots of opportunity for the players that are returning, the A.J. Greers, the (Jakub) Laukos, obviously (Trent) Frederic. We think he's going to be a big part of the third line. But who plays with who? I try not to get fixated on that, even though I might have ideas. I like to see it play out in camp and have the opportunity to see chemistry with each other."
One revelation as it relates to the bottom six is that Montgomery envisions Frederic remaining on the wing, at least to start the season, rather than moving to center.
"I think that's where he's the most dynamic for us, offensively and defensively," Montgomery told the Herald. "He's an excellent defensive winger and he also scores most of his goals and gets open the most as a winger. We feel we're going to need that from him again this year."
That would leave free-agent signing Morgan Geekie as the most likely option to center the third line, but there could also be an opportunity there for a youngster like Georgii Merkulov, Johnny Beecher, Marc McLaughlin or Matthew Poitras to win the job.
Other newcomers competing for bottom-six jobs include Milan Lucic, Jesper Boqvist, Patrick Brown and Alex Chiasson, the latter of whom joined on a professional tryout agreement last week.
One thing is clear, though: While some Bruins fans might still be holding out hope that general manager Don Sweeney pulls off a trade for a top center before the season begins, Montgomery is moving ahead with the understanding that the roster he has now is the one he'll have in training camp and into the regular season.
"In my mind, this is our team," Montgomery said. "Ever since Krech made it official, we'd been thinking that this would be our team. Honestly, we were preparing this way since mid-June."