With 14-year captain Zdeno Chara officially gone, there now remain four players from the Boston Bruins’ 2010-11 Stanley Cup-winning roster: Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, and David Krejci. All four are still integral parts of Boston’s game plan.
Bergeron and Marchand are the Bruins’ best players, after David Pastrnak. Rask, the league leader in goals against average (GAA) last season, will return to the starting lineup after opting out of the playoffs. He may split time with Jaroslav Halak throughout the season, but Rask is still the No. 1 goalie on the depth chart. We all know and appreciate these players’ value to the Bruins.
Then there is Krejci, the oft forgotten fourth horseman. He has quietly been a staple on the Bruins’ roster for over a decade, consistently scoring over .66 points per game and winning 50.8% of his faceoffs. He doesn’t often stand out, but he is as reliable as they come.
Krejci leads a second line that has been rather underwhelming as of late. Jake DeBrusk did not meet expectations in his third season, and once again the Bruins failed to find a consistent right winger to play alongside Krejci. They may have finally solved that problem.
Kase, Smith Provide Stability at Right Wing
Boston acquired Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks in the David Backes trade, but Kase never really had a chance to get fully acclimated on his new team. He will surely look more comfortable with an offseason and full training camp under his belt.
They also nabbed veteran Craig Smith from the Nashville Predators during the offseason, providing some much-needed depth on the right wing. Either option is an upgrade from names like Anders Bjork or Chris Wagner.
Kase and Smith will face a big test early, with lead right winger Pastrnak out to start the year.
With DeBrusk looking to have a bounce-back season and the new acquisitions settling in, a productive year is in the cards for the Bruins’ second line. If these wingers click with Krejci, the offense will be among the best in the league.
Second Line Can Put Bruins Over the Top
The second line played to its potential in the first round of last year’s playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes. Krejci seemed to benefit from the extended midseason break, as he played his best hockey in years during that series. He led the team with eight assists in five games, and DeBrusk caught fire during that four-goal run in the third period of Game 4.
That was perhaps the best hockey the Bruins played all season, and it happened when the second line was clicking along with the Bruins’ known commodities.
It became clear that Boston’s elite first line is not enough to compete for a championship. For the Bruins to go the distance, the second line needs to step up. If Krejci remains consistent, DeBrusk bounces back, and Kase or Smith finally solve the second line’s dilemma at right wing, they will be the players who turn the Bruins from a playoff contender to a championship favorite.
The Bruins’ offense becomes too top-heavy without the help of the second line. Opposing defenses can focus solely on the first liners, which will expose any weak points on the other lines in turn. That is, if the second line doesn’t step up.
There will be times throughout the season when Krejci and company will be forced into a bigger role. During the opening weeks of the season without Pastrnak, in those unavoidable games when the top power-play unit isn’t clicking, or when the Bruins get into a high-scoring affair with one of the other great offenses in the East; these will be the season-defining moments for the Bruins. These are the moments that separate the good from the great in the NHL.
The Bruins’ first line will once again be among the best in the league, but if they want to compete in the East Division and beyond, the second line will be the unit that puts them over the top.
The reliable veteran Krejci, alongside scoring threats in DeBrusk, Kase, and Smith on the wings, will decide how far the Bruins advance in 2020-21.
I cover the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. Fan of all things New England sports.