Coming into this season, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was planning to give his forward lines some time to build chemistry.
Specifically, he knew what he wanted his second and third lines to look like. David Krejci was going to have Jake DeBrusk and Ondrej Kase on his wings. Charlie Coyle would have Nick Ritchie and Craig Smith. David Pastrnak would obviously go back to the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand when he returns, so the hope was that a combination of Jack Studnicka and Anders Bjork could hold down the fort until then.
That’s what the Bruins rolled with all throughout their mini-training camp, and there was optimism that once they got a few games under their belt, they’d have found some nice chemistry.
So much for all that. While the new-look defense actually looks fairly settled right now -- the Bruins will roll with the same three defense pairings for a third straight game Monday -- the forward lines have been thrown into a blender.
Craig Smith missed the season-opener. Ondrej Kase got knocked out early in the second game with an upper-body injury that will keep him out of at least Monday’s game against the Islanders and possibly more.
That forced Cassidy and Co. to juggle the lines for the rest of Saturday’s game and try all kinds of different combinations, including Krejci and Coyle both taking shifts on the wing at times.
Aside from Bergeron and Marchand obviously remaining together on the top line and Trent Frederic, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner forming what’s been a pretty consistent fourth line, no one has been able to find chemistry with anyone.
Oh, and the Bruins have yet to score a five-on-five goal this season. That obviously could be in part because of the inability to keep lines together, but it’s also in large part because they’re just not playing particularly well at even strength, especially when it comes to getting pucks and bodies to the net.
And so Cassidy will continue to try to find anything that clicks. For Monday’s game, Studnicka will go back in with Kase out. Smith, despite not skating Sunday, is expected to play, but it’s possible Greg McKegg would have to go in if he can’t.
Studnicka is expected to start with Krejci and Ritchie, with DeBrusk already moved off Krejci’s line and up to first-line right wing in hopes of sparking his game after what’s been a very quiet start.
Cassidy would love nothing more than a fast start with all his new-look lines playing well. But if that doesn’t happen, don’t be surprised to see more in-game shuffling.
Here’s what the Bruins’ lineup is expected to look like if Smith is able to play. Tuukka Rask will start in net.
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - Jake DeBrusk
Nick Ritchie - David Krejci - Jack Studnicka
Anders Bjork - Charlie Coyle - Craig Smith
Trent Frederic - Sean Kuraly - Chris Wagner
Jeremy Lauzon - Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk - Brandon Carlo
Jakub Zboril - Kevan Miller