With training camp and the six preseason games in the rearview mirror, it’s now time for the Boston Bruins to look ahead to the 2021-22 season. The upcoming season is a return to normalcy with the Bruins going back to the Atlantic Division and an 82-game regular-season schedule.
There was no shortage of storylines in this training camp for coach Bruce Cassidy’s crew. From the second-line center battle, to the goaltending competition, to who will earn the final spot on the third defensive pairing and which prospects, if any, were going to make the roster. While we have some ideas on how those are going to play out, here are three takeaways from the Black and Gold’s camp at Warrior Ice Arena.
Fourth-Line Remains a Work in Progress
It’s pretty clear as to who the top-nine forwards are for the Bruins, but after that, there is a reason for concern with the bottom three. Was there anyone who stuck out above anyone else to earn a spot there? Not really.
Trent Frederic had an up-and-down camp, Tomas Nosek did not do much to catch your eye, and Curtis Lazar, who is out week-to-week with an upper-body injury, was arguably their best player of the group. Chris Wagner was pretty much ineffective and placed on waivers Saturday. Could the Bruins put prospects down there to fill out the line? Maybe, but it’s not worth it. The Bruins are better off going with a trio that gives them penalty-killing time and what they hope are some energy shifts. It certainly is not a promising group heading into the season.
Jeremy Swayman Should Be the Starting Goalie
Was last season’s performance by Swayman a one-year run or can the rookie sustain it over a full season? That remains to be seen, but if the preseason is any indication, he should be the starter opening night against the Dallas Stars.
There is a lot to like about his game. He’s fearless, aggressive in the net, challenges shots, cuts down angles, controls his rebounds, and is playing with a lot of confidence. Without a doubt, the former University of Maine standout outplayed free agent veteran Linus Ullmark in each of the three games they played. If Cassidy goes with who had the better preseason, Swayman should be between the pipes on Oct. 16.
It would not be a surprise if Ullmark gets the start opening night, but if he does start that game, it should be because Cassidy feels that he gives the Bruins a better chance to win, not because of the four-year, $20 million contract the front office gave him. It is going to be awfully hard for Cassidy not to have Swayman in net opening night. He has already said that they will both get action in the first month of the season and if that ends up being the case, then there’s no reason to give the kid the first game. He’s earned it.
Third-Line’s Quick Connection
There is no question that Jake DeBrusk had one of, if not the best, preseason of any Bruins’ player, which is good news considering his disappointing 2020-21 season. What was just as good of a sight was how well the third-line played and practiced together, forming a quick connection.
There is no question that veterans Erik Haula and Nick Foligno are going to be very beneficial to DeBrusk this season, which should help him have a bounce-back season. In the games the trio played together, you could tell that the time in practice together helped them form chemistry heading into the season. They also looked good on the Bruins’ second power play unit together with Craig Smith and Matt Grzelcyk.
As the Bruins found out in the playoffs last season against the New York Islanders, the third-line can be the difference between wins and losses. It was an issue that Sweeney knew he had to address in the offseason and he did with veterans, while also putting DeBrusk in a good position to have a bounce-back season.
The Bruins now have some time to figure out what they are going to do with their fourth line and who ends up starting in the net against the Stars. Training camp came and went without any major injuries and the Black and Gold hope it stays that way for a long time as they embark on the 82-game grind of the 2021-22 season. Get caught up with all the Bruins Season Previews at The Hockey Writers ahead of Saturday’s opener.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.