Tomorrow, the Boston Bruins travel to our nation’s capital for the second leg of a home and home preseason tilt with the Washington Captials. This will be the Bruins first televised game of the year, and with the season opener quickly approaching, we should ask ourselves what to watch for from the boys in black & gold.
The first thing to keep an eye on is how the team is functioning as a unit—are they skating well, showing patience and working together within the Bruins system? We all know Claude Julien’s priority is defense—just ask Ryan Spooner—and we want to see signs that players are learning and developing within that defensive-minded scheme. The scrambled lines give us the opportunity to see how players will adapt to different situations with different line mates, all while remaining within the structure Julien and the coaching staff has arranged. So watch for pucks deep, players crashing the front of the net and back checking with a purpose.
Also, watch for the Bruins to hit and be physical, because Bruins hockey is not Bruins hockey without physicality, and for them to be successful the B’s need to be the aggressor. So, they need to hit them, and hit them often.
Tenacity, hustle and desire are three qualities to observe from the younger players. For many of them this will be their only opportunity this year to play with the big club, and as a fan I want them to show me they deserve to be here, even if it is only the preseason. And for those battling for a legitimate roster spot, show me why you deserve to be in the spoked-B for 82 games—and you don’t have to be the flashiest player on the ice, but show up prepared to work hard, be aggressive and learn from your mistakes.
For the veterans on the ice, smart decisions, conditioning and positioning are what to look out for. The preseason is just that, the “pre” season; there will be no points lost or gained, and no cups raised. No dekes, dangles or dipsy-dos are necessary this time of year. Instead, passing the puck with conviction, firing pucks on the net, not taking unnecessary penalties, and starting to form good habits that will be carried into the regular season are the keys.
For some the preseason is a chance to shake the rust off, for some it is a chance to prove themselves and for everyone it is a chance to better their game. So Friday, as the Bruins return to your living room, be sure to watch for all of that—hopefully resulting in another W over the Caps.