The Bruins have been missing both Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno from the lineup for just about a month, but that should be changing soon. Multiple sources have confirmed that Hall has been practicing with the team, but is still short of a full recovery. Head coach Jim Montgomery said that “he looked really good” but also denied Darren Dreger’s report that Boston is replicating Tampa’s Kucherov situation from a few years back.
Even if Hall returned to full strength before the playoffs, the Bruins would have to do some salary cap gymnastics in order to get him into the lineup and stay compliant. However, once the Stanley Cup begins the cap is nonexistent and Boston and ice their strongest lineup possible. With all the depth the Bruins have in the lineup, a handful of quality players will have to be scratched.
So the question needs to be asked; How should the Bruins line up in the playoffs?
The top two lines are locked in without question; the Bergeron line and the aptly named Czeching line. In all likelihood, when Hall returns he’ll slide into the third line alongside Bertuzzi and Coyle. Upon Nick Foligno’s return he, Tomas Nosek and Garnet Hathaway would round out the bottom six.
Trent Frederic, AJ Greer and Jakub Lauko are the most likely forwards to be scratched to start of the postseason.
Projecting the defense is much trickier because it’s less about who is in/out and more about the pairings. Derek Forbort’s regular season-ending injury solves Montgomery’s musical chairs with the seven defensemen, but who plays with who?
In the limited minutes each incumbent blueliner has played with Dmitry Orlov, surprisingly Connor Clifton has the best numbers.
Their combined 72% Expected Goal For Percentage is Top 5 in the league for D-pairs. Among the most often used pairings, Forbort and Clifton is the only one under 50%. Forbort’s Expected Goals Against numbers are not very flattering either, however that could be a result of his team leading 3:51 of shorthanded ice time per game. In all likelihood, he will be the odd man out of the lineup come playoff time due to his injury.
There should be very little debate as to who starts in goal for the playoffs; it’s Ullmark’s net until proven otherwise.
He did not have the greatest performance against Carolina last spring, but his play has significantly improved this year. Swayman will be ready to take over if needed, but tie goes to the Vezina trophy favorite.
Photo: Michael Dwyer/AP