Tonight the Boston Bruins embark on their first game of the season. Granted, it’s only a preseason game, but it’s still hockey and we can still listen and get excited. (You can probably even stream it somewhere if you are resourceful enough.) Nonetheless, tonight’s game will give us something to digest as we look at who may or may not earn a roster spot with the Bruins for the 2019-20 season.
Tonight we won’t see defensemen Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo, despite that McAvoy signed a three-year deal on Sunday morning. He needs a bit of time to catch up after missing the first few days of training camp. The Bruins have also decided to keep their bigger names off the ice tonight, giving the prospects a chance to show what they’re made of. At the other end, the New Jersey Devils have reported that they are going play some of their bigger names in tonight’s game including newcomers P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds and number one draft pick Jack Hughes.
The Devils Had a Productive Offseason
The Devils are at the top of the list of teams who had the most productive offseason. They capitalized on the trade market by adding defensive depth in Subban and a strong physical presence in Simmonds. However, they hit the jackpot with the NHL Entry Draft and the 2019 first-overall pick, Jack Hughes.
Hughes is an offensive powerhouse who knows how to carry the puck into the offensive zone and has a scoring touch. He’s coming off of a hot season when he posted 112 points in 50 games with the USNTDP and then went on to beat Alexander Ovechkin’s scoring record at the U-18 World Championships. He is slated to be the first player to make the jump from the USNTDP to the NHL. According to our Devils writers, Hughes’ speed and elite vision are what make him a force to be reckoned with as well as being a high-end play-maker. He’s someone the Bruins’ defense will have to shut down if they want to keep the score down.
Simmonds, as SB Nation puts it, has the durability to take abuse in front of the net, create traffic, and use his excellent stick work to make rebound goals look easy. He’s a gritty player that isn’t afraid to do the work. It doesn’t matter if it’s at even strength or on the power play, his presence is noticed. We will likely see him on one of the Devils’ top lines tonight.
The Bruins’ best course of action with Simmonds is to keep him outside of the crease, don’t let him get close enough to chip in pucks or get rebounds. The defense will have to know where he is at all times if they stand a chance at containing him. If nothing else, this game will show what defensive prospects are up to the challenge of playing for the big club, versus who should spend more time developing in the AHL.
Subban has always been tough for the Bruins to play against. He has a strong physical presence and a hard shot from the blue line. He excels at preventing his opponents from entering his zone with possession and can take over and generate scoring opportunities for his team. According to the folks over at FanSided, Subban is slated to be the team’s best defenseman this season and with Hughes, they could put the Devils on the cusp of making a playoff run this season.
Another notable player to watch for tonight is Ty Smith. The forward was out sick yesterday but if he’s feeling better, he will suit up against the Black and Gold. Smith is coming off of a 57-game season with the Spokane Chiefs (WHL), and earned CHL Defenseman of the Year honours. Despite being a defenseman, he has stellar puck-handling skills and has a keen eye for passing. The Bruins’ offense will need to stay strong on the puck and win the battles along the boards if they stand a chance at generating offensive zone shots with Smith on the ice.
Bruins Players to Watch
Tonight we will get to see just how Trent Frederic offseason regime prepared him for this season after missing time with a lower-body injury. He returned to the ice on Saturday along with Joakim Nordstrom. Frederic changed his diet and took on a new training focus to prepare for this season, teaming up with ex-Bruins hopeful Jeff LoVecchio. He is taller than Brad Marchand, at 6-foot-2, he should have the same ability to pull up on a rush, stop on a dime and hit his passes.
Par Lindholm has made the roster for tonight and is excited to be joining the Bruins rather than playing against them this season. In an interview, he told reporters it was the toughness that appealed to him:
They have a tough team that has been like that for a long time. I think that is pretty intimidating. I know when we played the Bruins, it’s always hard to play against them. I think that is probably the key to winning playoff games.”Official NHL Site
Lindholm could be the Bruins’ replacement for forward Marcus Johansson who signed with the Buffalo Sabres during the offseason. He’s a versatile player who can comfortably center the third line (bumping Charlie Coyle up) or spend time on the wing.
Despite a rocky start to training camp, Alex Petrovich will suit up tonight in hopes of earning himself a roster spot and to wipe the slate clean after he took out coach Bruce Cassidy on the first day of training camp. He hasn’t put up impressive numbers, and with the McAvoy signing and Carlo talks resuming, he’ll likely be a bottom pairing defenseman or fill in while Kevan Miller and John Moore are recuperating. Petrovich has a willingness to play physical and knows how to put himself between players and the puck, which could help in tonight’s matchup. He’s also not afraid to throw a punch which could be beneficial for the Bruins as they’ve lost a lot of their key enforcers.
Puck drops at 7PM, will you be listening?