With five preseason games in the books and two to go, it is worth checking-in on the question marks still facing the Bruins starting roster, namely: Who will play on the 3rd line alongside Chris Kelly, and which two of the trio of Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, and Matt Bartkowski will be in the starting lineup when the season begins on October 3rd?
photo via NHL.com
The latter is probably the easier question to answer as despite Bartkowski’s fine play this preseason, it is very likely that he will start the season on the roster as the 7th defenseman. Tough luck for a player that has absolutely worked his ass off and has done everything in his power to compete for a starting spot. The only issue is obviously the depth that we have on defense which will be sure to provide some healthy competition all season long. Krug is almost guaranteed a spot because of his powerplay abilities, so Bart will have to beat out prized second-year defenseman Dougie Hamilton if he wants to make the starting lineup.
As for who will comprise the third line, this is a bit trickier to answer as these last two preseason games will really help Claude Julien determine who will play alongside Chris Kelly. Carl Soderberg, Nick Johnson, Jordan Caron, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, and Ryan Spooner are all competing for two spots on the perennially shitty line. Soderberg has really been moving the puck well lately and looks as if he has been settling in at the left wing position opposite Kelly. Nick Johnson has had a couple of nice goals and has shown his strong two-way play this preseason, but can also disappear in games and looks to be a little gun-shy at times. The Bruins coaching staff seems to really like something about Jordan Caron and I am unclear as to what that is. Maybe it is the fact that he was a previous first round pick and they just want him to play up to that potential, but he has been given plenty of chances at the big league level, yet has done nothing with those opportunities. Caron looks lost out there and while above average on the penalty kill and on defense, has not developed the offensive skills to complement his defensive game.
photo via NESN.com
Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser, two of the new additions from the Tyler Seguin trade, have both impressed Coach Julien, but Smith looks more comfortable out there, is faster, and has been playing very well with Soderberg and
Kelly in recent games. The player with the highest upside, but perhaps hardest pressed to win the gig is Ryan Spooner. Spooner, a natural center, has simply picked the wrong time to mature into an NHL-ready player. With David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly, and Gregory Campbell cemented up the middle, Spooner will either have to change positions to a wing (something that he has not been given the opportunity to do this preseason), or wait for an injury/scratch to one of the other centers. It looks as if Spooner will yet again start the season in Providence or maybe as an extra skater in Boston, but either way, it is going to be difficult for the kid to find ice time despite all of his potential.
If I had to guess, I would say that Smith starts the season on the right side on a line with Kelly and Soderberg, with Nick Johnson and Jordan Caron as the extra skaters. Boston will probably end up sending Spooner and Fraser down to Providence for the time being, but this kind of intense competition is great for a team and is something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.