The Boston Bruins have clinched everything they needed to clinch in 2022-23. They clinched the Atlantic Division and won the Presidents’ Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs as far as they go. The only thing they have left in their final seven games is getting through that stretch healthy as they can before the postseason.
As the Bruins begin the march toward 16 wins and the Stanley Cup, a lot of the lineup is set in stone, however, the work done by general manager (GM) Don Sweeney at the trade deadline has given coach Jim Montgomery plenty of options to mix and match, especially with his bottom six and on defense. Right now, Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno, and Derek Forbort are all out injured, but in the case of Hall and Foligno, they have been practicing recently in red non-contact jerseys, which is a good sign.
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Despite the status of those three, you will likely see Hall and maybe even Foligno when the playoffs begin. With over two weeks away and let’s take a look at what the lineup should look like when the Bruins begin the playoffs against either the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Florida Panthers.
First Line: Brad Marchand/Patrice Bergeron/Jake DeBrusk
Since former coach Bruce Cassidy put this trio together in February of 2022, things have taken off when they are on the ice together. Jake DeBrusk has played some of the best hockey of his career on the right wing and this season he was on pace to set a new career-high in goals until an injury at the Winter Classic in January at Fenway Park against the Penguins cost him a month and a half of the season. He still has 24 goals and is playing with his new-found confidence.
Patrice Bergeron is still playing at a Selke Trophy-winning level and has 27 goals, while Brad Marchand is still an elite left wing, but his goal numbers are down with just 20 as he missed the first three weeks of the season recovering from offseason surgery. Bergeron and Marchand both missed the 4-3 shootout win over the Carolina Hurricanes on March 26 and more rest should be in the cards for both players over the next two weeks.
Second Line: Pavel Zacha/David Krejci/David Pastrnak
When the Bruins traded for Pavel Zacha in July and David Krejci signed to return in August, it was thought that they could put them together with David Pastrnak on the second line. That’s exactly what Montgomery did and the reward has been paying off all season long.
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Pastrnak recorded the first 50-goal season of his career, and Zacha has set a career-high in goals (18), assists (31), and points (49). Krejci has adjusted back to the NHL game after spending last season in Czechia have formed one of the best second lines in the NHL. They will most likely be broken up during games as they have been recently by Montgomery by moving Pastrnak to the first line, but for the most part, they should stick together.
Third Line: Taylor Hall/Charlie Coyle/Tyler Bertuzzi
By all indications, it appears that Hall will be ready to go for the playoffs, if not earlier, and putting him on the third line with Charlie Coyle at center and moving newly acquired Tyler Bertuzii to the right wing give the Bruins a top-six combination for their third line. Coyle has thrived as the third-line center since being dropped there in January of 2022.
When the Bruins became healthy in their top six, Hall was moved down to the third-line left wing and made the seamless transition like a pro before his injury against the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 25. Bertuzzi, a top-six forward with the Detroit Red Wings, would be an upgrade at right wing and make the third-line a real threat to be a deciding factor in any series.
Fourth Line: Nick Foligno/Tomas Nosek/Garnet Hathaway
Assuming Foligno is cleared to return, this will be a suffocating line to play against. If he can’t go, then sliding Trent Frederic in his place still make this a tough line to play against. This has the making of the “Merlot Line’’ the Bruins had back in the 2011 championship run with Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell, and Shawn Thornton. A two-way grinding line that was physical and a blue-collar line that sent the tone each night.
That is what Sweeney acquired Hathaway for and Foligno was having a big-time bounce-back season before his injury on Feb. 28 against the Calgary Flames. Nosek is another candidate for a bounce-back season and is key on the penalty kill.
Defense: McAvoy/Orlov, Grzelcyk/Carlo, Clifton/Lindholm
These combinations will change on a daily basis or even in-game, but you get the idea. This is as good of a defensive unit as the Bruins have had in a long time. The one question will be is Forbort going to be cleared in time for the first-round series? If so, he slides back in and the rotation of blueliners will continue.
Charlie McAvoy, Dmitry Orlov, Hampus Lindholm, and Brandon Carlo (because of his penalty-killing) will most likely be mainstays on a nightly basis, with Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton part of a rotation. Again, that’s all if Forbort is cleared. There is also Jakub Zboril, who has been playing very well as of late, and even Mike Reilly, if he’s recovered from his recent injury on March 26, are other options should Montgomery have to dive deep into his depth.
Goaltending: Linus Ullmark
There is no doubt as to who gets the start in Game 1 between the pipes. The favorite to win the Vezina Trophy, Linus Ullmark has been the best goalie in the NHL since October. He has won 36 games, and has a 1.88 goals-against average (GAA) with a .938 save percentage (SV%). He got the start last season against Carolina and after losing the first two games, Jeremy Swayman got the final five starts as the Bruins lost in seven games. Montgomery may rotate the goaltending this postseason, but it’s clear who gets the first opportunity.
Bruins Have Depth All Over Their Lineup
Sweeney went into the trade deadline with one goal, to add depth throughout the lineup. Mission accomplished. He acquired Orlov and Hathaway from the Washington Capitals and Bertuzzi from the Red Wings. Health will always come into play, but this year, the Bruins are better off dealing with that with the moves made. Montgomery has plenty of options that will be in the pressbox at the beginning of the playoffs to use in future games. If this season doesn’t end with the ultimate goal of a championship, it’s on the players, not Sweeney or anyone else.