Bruins’ Jim Montgomery Reveals Plans for Team’s Top-6

The hours keep ticking by. In less than 50 days, the Boston Bruins will be playing a meaningful game as they open up their season against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 12. Missing from that lineup will be mainstays Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy, along with Matt Grzelcyk. As fans have looked towards opening night, questions have surrounded about how the Bruins’ lines will look under new head coach, Jim Montgomery.

During an interview for the Jimmy Fund, Montgomery shared some insight into how his top-six forwards will start the year. The top line will be anchored by the captain Patrice Bergeron down the middle. Fresh off rescinding his trade request, Jake DeBrusk is expected to start on the right wing, with former New Jersey Devil Pavel Zacha slotting into the left-wing position next to Bergeron. The second line will be what many have envisioned since the offseason began: Taylor Hall will take his spot on the left wing with David Pastrnak barreling down the right wing. In the middle will be the return of David Krejci, back from a year at home in Czechia.

With these lines constructed, let’s analyze the other options besides Zacha for the top left-wing opening in Marchand’s absence. We’ll also dive into who may take the title of “Top Line,” insofar as that title exists or matters.

Bergeron’s Line

Once the captain had signaled his desire to return to Boston, he immediately rose to the top of the Bruins’ depth chart at center.

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron Boston Bruins
Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Last season, Bergeron started the year with Marchand on his left and Pastrnak on his right in a return of the “Perfection Line” from years past. While this line clicked, the rest of the Bruins faltered, and former head coach Bruce Cassidy was forced to juggle his lines. Pastrnak slid down to the second line, and after a Craig Smith experiment, Jake DeBrusk found his way to the top line. Even though DeBrusk was playing his off-side, on the right rather than left, he ran with the opportunity.

When healthy, this trio, Marchand, Bergeron, and DeBrusk, figure to be reunited. Still, that reunion will not be immediate given Marchand’s recovery from offseason hip surgery. So, who else could take his spot?

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Internally, the Bruins have options available. The question comes down to how much shuffling Montgomery and his staff want to do throughout the year.

For instance, Pastrnak could be elevated to the top line with DeBrusk sliding back to his natural left wing spot. This line may appear more dangerous than a Zacha-Bergeron-DeBrusk line, but it also disrupts three lines, rather than just two (Bergeron’s line, Krejci’s line, and the third line where Zacha is expected to slot in once Marchand returns). This is the same argument for not elevating Hall to Marchand’s spot and putting Zacha with his fellow countrymen in Krejci and Pastrnak.

Related: 3 Bruins Who Benefit From Bergeron & Krejci Returning

A dark-horse candidate is Craig Smith. He would limit the disruption to two lines, same as Zacha, but would also shuffle positions. Smith is a right-wing, so he likely will stay on his natural side, moving DeBrusk to the left and leaving Zacha to a third-line wing role beside Charlie Coyle. Smith has shown an ability to play alongside Bergeron effectively before, but a lackluster end to last season probably will lead to him remaining on the third line.

Bergeron or Krejci, Who’s Line is Top?

With these lines constructed, the question now turns to usage. Who will be the Bruins’ top line? The obvious answer is Bergeron’s as he is the top center, the captain, and his line has been the top line in the past. That assessment may not be true, however. Without Marchand, Bergeron’s group is less intimidating. It is still a solid trio, don’t get me wrong, as the Bruins should expect production from each spot, but Zacha, Bergeron, and DeBrusk do not necessarily jump off the page the way Marchand, Bergeron, and DeBrusk do.

Pavel Zacha New Jersey Devils
Pavel Zacha, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On the other line, Hall, Krejci, and Pastrnak have the pedigree to make a case as the top line. Krejci is the only player who hasn’t played a majority of his career on the first line of this group, and that is because of Bergeron. On most other teams, Krejci would have been the first-line center. In Boston, he stayed on the second line.

On the Krejci line, there are two wingers that can support and create offensive opportunities. Pastrnak is one of the best in the game, as few can shoot and take over games the way he can. Hall has won a Hart Trophy in the past and also showed last year by teaming up with Pastrnak, that he still has plenty of game to give. Now with two strong wingers besides a strong center, this line – which may be viewed as the second line – could really be Boston’s top group.

Does it Really Matter Who the Top Line Is?

In reality, no. The lines should be viewed as a 1A and 1B situation. Both groups can impact a game, meaning Montgomery can rotate both to keep each group fresh. Their usage can also be situational. When a shutdown is needed, the Bergeron line may enter, given his skill in the faceoff circle.

These lines are all hypothetical and until the Bruins begin training camp and see who shows chemistry with whom, nobody will know for sure what the opening night combinations will be.

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