|10.08.15 at 1:28 pm ET|
The only time Claude Julien had more new faces to open a season with the Bruins, his was technically the new one.
“My first year I had over twenty new guys,” Julien said Thursday morning with a grin. “I didn’t know anybody, right?”
When Julien and the Bruins begin the season Thursday night, he will likely have five players making their Bruins debuts in Jimmy Hayes, Matt Beleskey, Joonas Kemppainen, Matt Irwin and Zac Rinaldo. That ties 2007-08, Julien’s first season with the B’s, as the most new Bruins in an opening night lineup in the Julien era, not counting backup goalies.
Between Julien’s first season and now, the most new Bruins on an opening night was three, which came in 2010-11 (Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell, Tyler Seguin) and 2013-14 (Jarome Iginla, Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith). The Bruins have often had remarkably little roster turnover. Last season, for example, Bobby Robins was the only newbie in the lineup to begin the season.
Of course, players such as Robins who were in the organization beforehand had at least some comfort level with the B’s. All five of the new Bruins for Thursday’s opener were brought in this offseason in either trades or free agency. The number could have been even higher Thursday, but trade acquisition Colin Miller and 2009 sixth-round pick Tyler Randell are expected to be healthy scratches.
‘I think it’s been a good three-plus weeks where we’ve been able to kind of work individually as a group, as a line, with different players and different personalities,’ Julien said. ‘Everything right now, we’re pleased with it, we’re optimistic and we just have to let things work themselves out too. I don’t have any issues with the number of new players. I just have a preoccupation with getting the whole group ready to play here tonight.’
Beleskey will play on David Krejci‘s line with David Pastrnak, while Hayes will start off playing left wing with Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly. Kemppainen and Rinaldo will skate on the fourth line with Chris Kelly. The only newcomer expected on the blue line Thursday, Irwin figures to be paired with Zach Trotman.
|10.08.15 at 1:06 pm ET|
McGuire said with so many players being added to the team in the offseason, patience is going to be key for coach Claude Julien, as well as getting off to a hot start.
“Well, he’s going to have to be because that’s patience is going to be part of his job to make sure these players learn how to play,” McGuire said. “Dougie Houda, the other assistant coach who works mostly with the defense, he’s going to have to do some pretty patient work with those young players as well on defense. The expectation in Boston is so high, obviously, and it should be. It is a strong franchise and an original six franchise. I love the intensity. The fan base is obviously rapid.
“It’s an important franchise in the league, but it’s really, really critical that they get off to a good start because this is the kind of thing that confidence is going to be a premium. If they get off to a bad start, the confidence starts to wain, it would be a tough year.”
With the team already dealing with a number of injuries to open the year, health is a concern.
“They will have to start getting some people healthy, especially Big Z (Zdeno Chara) No. 1, and No. 2 [Dennis] Seidenberg injury sets them back a little bit,” McGuire said. “They also have Kevan Miller and Colin Miller with Colin Miller coming over in the [Milan] Lucic trade, who can really step up his game. I thought there was some moments in preseason where he was very good. The Bruins clearly know him well from his days in Manchester and his days at [Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds]. They have to hope he can get it going and obviously Torey Krug takes another step forward.
“This is going to be interesting. It is going to be interesting to watch. The one thing I would caution Bruins fans on is I would never bet against a team that has Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara in their leadership core. I never would just because I respect those guys so much.”
|10.08.15 at 12:36 pm ET|
With Dougie Hamilton in Calgary, Dennis Seidenberg rehabbing from back surgery and Zdeno Chara officially out for Thursday night’s meeting with the Jets due to an upper-body, the Bruins’ top defensive pairing is now Torey Krug with Adam McQuaid.
If that sounds alarming, it’s because that has never been a top pairing before. Though both guys have played on Chara’s right at times over the years, trying to shut down Winnipeg‘s top forwards by themselves will be a challenge.
“I don’t really know what to expect, but I’ll obviously be prepared for that,” McQuaid said of potentially playing top-pairing minutes. “Whether we’ll have a definitive 1-2-3 pairings, I’m not quite sure. I think we’re all pretty capable of playing. I think it’s a pretty solid three pairings. We’ll be prepared to play against anyone.”
Boston’s three pairings for Thursday are expected to be Krug-McQuaid, Joe Morrow-Kevan Miller and Matt Irwin-Zach Trotman. Colin Miller is expected to be a healthy scratch on defense.
This season figured to be difficult for the Bruins defensively even before Seidenberg and Chara got hurt. The loss of Hamilton made a team that struggled on the back end last season even worse, and though the B’s had ample bodies with the additions of Matt Irwin and Colin Miller, the blue line figured to be a work in progress, at best. Without Chara, the getting-to-know-you period for guys like Irwin and new full-timers in Trotman and Morrow will be harder than expected.
Where the Bruins benefit (if you can call it that) is that they have last change at home for the first three games of the season. It’s unknown how much longer Chara will be kept out, but Julien will at least have an easier time getting the matchups he want while the games are at TD Garden.
That means that Winnipeg‘s top line of Bryan Little between Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler can probably expect a healthy dose of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson on Thursday night. Playing against the Bergeron line is never easy, but it’s easier when Chara isn’t out there, too.
A former Bruin who was sent to Atlanta in the 2011 Rich Peverley trade, Wheeler likely would have seen plenty of Chara given that their positions match up (Wheeler’s a right wing; Chara’s a left D). Wheeler was matched against Seidenberg and Kevan Miller when the teams met last Nov. 28, but he faced Chara and Hamilton in a Dec. 19 meeting that saw his line go without a point and struggle with possession.
“You want to see Zee back on the ice as soon as possible, but it’s never that much fun playing against him with that said,’ Wheeler said after Winnipeg‘s morning skate. “I mean that as a compliment. He’s one of the more intimidating tough guys to play against in the NHL. He’s a big hole to fill for sure.”
Julien answered a question about his defense Thursday by noting that the Bruins have “dealt with it before” and “dealt with it last year.” Of course, the Bruins had Hamilton then, while Boston’s other D’s assignments didn’t change too drastically. This will be more difficult, however long it lasts.
|10.08.15 at 10:46 am ET|
Claude Julien confirmed what Thursday’s morning skate suggested when he revealed the Bruins will take the cautious route with Zdeno Chara and hold him out of Thursday’s season-opener against the Jets.
The Bruins paired Chara with Colin Miller in Thursday’s morning skate, an indication that he’d be out after Miller did not participate in power play work Wednesday. Chara has been out since Sept. 24 with an upper-body injury.
Chara still cannot take slap shots, as he’s been doing them lightly since Wednesday. Given that he is clearly not at 100 percent, the B’s are wise to hold him out, even if it means icing a potentially porous defense for the time being.
The reason Julien might hold Colin Miller out figures to be because of Boston’s need to defend without the ultimate shutdown defenseman. With Chara out, all three remaining left-shot defensemen are offensive-minded defenders in Torey Krug, Joe Morrow and Matt Irwin. As such, it’s hard to fault Julien for sitting the right-handed Miller in favor of better defensive players in Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller and Zach Trotman.
Boston’s roster is currently at 23 players with Chara on injured reserve. If they are to take him off IR in the coming days, they would need to remove a player from the roster.
Boston’s lineup in morning skate was as follows:
(Tyler Randell, Max Talbot)
|10.08.15 at 10:09 am ET|
Discuss the start of the Bruins season and everything else with DJ Bean at 2 p.m. In the meantime, here’s some required reading:
|10.08.15 at 9:39 am ET|
ESPN NHL hockey analyst Barry Melrose joined Dennis, Callahan & Minihane on Thursday morning to look ahead to the 2015-16 NHL season. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
With the Bruins’ disappointing season last year, he feels coach Claude Julien is under pressure right away.
“I think he is. I don’t think he should be,” Melrose said. “I think Claude is a heck of a coach, won a Stanley Cup in Boston. They had a long drought, there was no Stanley Cup winners and he comes in and gets the job done and the team is good every year. I think he’s under pressure. Boston is a team that expects to win. They expect the Red Sox to win, the Patriots to win, the Celtics to win and they expect Boston to win. It’s going to be a tough year for the Bruins. They are not the dominant Bruins they once were. Everybody got a little bit better in the East and it is going to take Claude’s best coaching job he’s ever done in his life to make this a playoff team and give them a chance of winning.”
This past offseason the team lost a number of key players, including Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic. Melrose says their margin for error is very small.
“Are they as good today as they were last year? I don’t think so,” he said. “I think what has to happen for the Bruins now is they don’t have any margin anymore. The Bruins used to be able to overcome an injury or overcome maybe a struggling player here or there, but I don’t think they can anymore. I think the Bruins have to get plays from their kids, they have to get great games from [Patrice] Bergeron, [David] Krejci and [Zdeno] Chara. They can’t afford any injuries to key players. Tuukka Rask probably has to play the best he’s ever played and they just don’t have any margin for error anymore with their lineup.
“If all those things happen they are a playoff team, but if all of a sudden Bergeron misses six weeks or Krejci, who has been hurt a lot lately, misses six weeks, Chara is already starting the year hurt, [Dennis] Seidenberg is already gone for two months, so that’s going to be tough. They’ve been able to overcome those before, I don’t know if they will be able to overcome those now.”
|10.07.15 at 12:45 pm ET|
As the Bruins held their final practice in anticipation of the 2015-16 season Wednesday at TD Garden, Zdeno Chara may have taken a step closer to being game-ready.
Chara was present as the Bruins practiced the power play prior to practice, switching off with Zach Trotman on the point of Boston’s second unit. During one of the first unit’s turns, Chara took a pair of light slap shots against the boards, marking the first time he’d been seen taking slap shots since suffering his upper-body injury on Sept. 24. Overall, the day was another step in the right direction for the Bruins and their captain as the B’s prepare to open the season against the Jets on Thursday.
“I was just focusing on having a good practice today,” Chara said. “That went well, so again, we’re going to be looking towards tomorrow to have a better feeling and better knowledge.”
Chara danced around the subject when asked about his comfort with slap shots, responding that he was “just doing the drills that we had been told to do.” He was also somewhat equivocal on the subject of whether he still needs to be medically cleared to play.
The Bruins had eight defensemen practice Wednesday, seven of whom are on the active roster given that Chara is on injured reserve. Based on Wednesday’s practice, it would appear Colin Miller could be the odd man out if Chara doesn’t play. Miller, whose skill set makes him a potential power play specialist, did not practice on the power play and was paired with Chara in practice. The lines in Wednesday’s practice were as follows:
The power play units looked as such:
The Bruins roster currently stands at 23 players, not counting Chara. If the B’s are to activate him, they would need to send someone down. The Bruins roster, as announced by the NHL Wednesday, is as follows:
Matt Beleskey, Patrice Bergeron, Brett Connolly, Loui Eriksson, Jonas Gustafsson, Jimmy Hayes, Matt Irwin, Chris Kelly, Joonas Kemppainen, David Krejci, Torey Krug, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, Joe Morrow, David Pastrnak, Tyler Randell, Tuukka Rask, Zac Rinaldo, Ryan Spooner, Maxime Talbot, Zach Trotman.
Check out the latest Bruins Podcast, a 6-Pack of questions to preview the season, with DJ Bean and Ken Laird: