By Tommy McArdle
The Boston Bruins’ season-opening 4-3 victory over the Nashville Predators Thursday night showcased likely exactly what we’re to expect from this year’s itineration of the team; skill, a fast pace of play, and major contributions from the team’s rookies and youngest players.
David Pastrnak, 21, opened up the scoring in the first on a one time feed from Charlie McAvoy. Both Jake DeBrusk, 20, and McAvoy, 19, scored the first goal of their NHL careers.
That’s to be expected in the new NHL. Teams need their youngest, most talented, and most cost-effective players to score regularly in order to maximize the competitiveness of their entire roster, and the Bruins aren’t any different. A youth movement simmered in the Bruins organization for the past two years, and the 2017-18 season will be the first time we see concrete results from that movement. Not only did the young players chip in on the scoreboard, but they all played substantial minutes in the convincing win, with McAvoy playing more than any Bruin but Zdeno Chara.
Management expect DeBrusk, McAvoy, and fellow rookie Anders Bjork (who chipped in with an assist on DeBrusk’s goal) to be complementary players to stars like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, not deadweight that needs to learn how to play in the NHL It seems we can expect head coach Bruce Cassidy to allow those rookies to grow into their roles and continue to play their games, adapting his system around them.
Those three rookies, alongside rookie defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, will be especially imperative in the weeks to come thanks to the early season injury bug. Defenseman Torey Krug could be out for up to another week, while veteran forward David Backes is out for three to four weeks with an unusual case of diverticulitis. Patrice Bergeron missed the season opener with a lower body injury, and Noel Acciari left the game after being hit by a puck early in the first period.
While Krug is gone, McAvoy will be leaned on heavily to run the defense on Boston’s power play. Grzelcyk, too, will hope to chip in offensively. Bjork and DeBrusk will be needed to fill the gap in what would otherwise by Backes’ playing time, especially with Frank Vatrano (only seven minutes played against Nashville) not doing enough to separate himself from Boston’s crowd of depth players.
While Thursday’s game shouldn’t be an end all be all indication of how this season will go, Boston’s rookies show the team has a special up and coming group in their young players. It’s on those rookies to step up where other Bruins teams have failed in the last three years and play a more dangerous all around game.