By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
This just in, the 2019-20 edition of the Boston Bruins will be good. After pulling an Alex Cora-esque approach to resting his top-end talent in training camp – with much better results so far – head coach Bruce Cassidy’s crew has posted a perfect 3-0 record on the first road trip of the season and his top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak once again showed that they are one of the most elite trios any bench boss in the NHL can roll out on a nightly basis.
And while many among the Black and Gold faithful may have nodded off before the end of their impressive 4-3 comeback victory in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights – who are considered a favorite to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final come next June – they should take solace in the fact that during their slumber the team that calls Causeway Street home once again showed the poise and the resilience that took them to the brink of a championship a scant few months ago.
As expected, the B’s suddenly deep defensive core has been key to their quick start, and the newly minted multi-millionaire Charlie McAvoy has begun to solidify his spot as the successor to the list of Hall of Fame blueliners – Bobby Orr, Brad Park, Raymond Bourque and shoo-in Zdeno Chara, to name a few – to have called Boston their hockey home for the last 50 years plus.
“I actually thought we started on time, we just got down a couple quickly. We fought back. The top line was excellent,” said Cassidy about his somewhat rusty top three to start the season. “We checked well as the game went on. We got pucks back in their end. I thought our forecheck was very good tonight…we didn’t have a lot of O-zone time the first couple games, we were much better tonight.”
The strength of their core was not lost on Torey Krug – who is fast becoming a pillar that this Bruins team is currently built upon – who had this to say following the impressive road win in the Sin City.
“It’s a trickle-down effect from our leaders. When you see them doing it on a daily basis, not just in games but in practice as well…we see it every day in practice. That’s why it shows up in games.”
For as much as it is a good sign to see that not much has changed when it comes to the leadership that the team has leaned upon for over a decade now to drive them, the fast start shouldn’t make Cassidy and his coaching staff lose sight of the fact that they would be wise to ease off the gas when it comes to the minutes played during the regular season by his aging core.
While three games is barely even a snapshot, Chara trails only McAvoy in average ice time per game (21:38 to 22:07) and the combination of Marchand (18:57) and Bergeron (17:57) lead all forwards in the early season workload.
Not that it shouldn’t be expected that the top defensive and offensive pairings shouldn’t be expected to carry a good portion of the load on any given night, the fact remains that perhaps the biggest reason the Bruins didn’t have a duck boat parade last June is that both Bergeron and Marchand were essentially mush during the 7-Game Final loss against the St. Louis Blues last spring.
The fact is that while only the 42 year-old Chara’s tires may be the only ones out of the core that is as close to threadbare as you can get, at 34 and in his 16th season Bergeron has only so many rotations left on the rubber he takes to the rink each night and Marchand (31) is on the wrong side of 30 as well.
The bottom line is, as much as Bruins fans might enjoy regular season victories from what should be a strong Cup contender this spring, chasing them at the expense of riding their aging top talent won’t mean a thing when the NHL’s second season begins in April.
And that, more than anything else, should be Cassidy’s top priority between now and then.