The Boston Bruins open up their preseason schedule tonight in Ottawa against the Senators. Unlike last year, there are not many open spots in the Bruins’ lineup. However, there are a few questions. Here are five things to watch for as the preseason begins:
1. Are any of the rookies NHL ready?
The Bruins have done a great job in the draft the last few years and have a bunch of guys in the 18-20 range who have the potential to be solid NHL players. The question right now: are any of them ready? Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight have impressed last year and so far this year, while Alexander Khokhlachev scored a pair of goals early in the Black and White scrimmage Tuesday night. Zach Hamill and Jordan Caron have been around a little longer and really need to prove they can make the jump to the NHL level. Neither has to this point.
Defensively, David Warsofsky is a guy who could possibly have an impact this year, and appears to have a bright future. Meanwhile, Dougie Hamilton is probably headed back to juniors, he is getting a good, long look. Matt Bartkowski and Colby Cohen are other young defensemen who may get a look with the big club.
2. Can Benoit Pouliot jump-start his career in Boston?
Pouliot was highly touted coming out of juniors, and was selected fourth overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2005. He was a bust in Minnesota, scoring 9 goals and 9 assists in 65 games over for seasons. He was better in Montreal, scoring 15 goals in 2009-10 and 13 goals last year. However, much more is expected from a guy who has the size (6-foot3, 199) and skill set to be a 30-goal scorer. To this point in his career, Pouliot’s most well-known moment was being called “one of the biggest disappointments in NHL history” by Bruins announcer Jack Edwards during last year’s playoff. He will get his chance, but as already noted, the Bruins have a slew of talented young forwards who will push Pouliot.
3. Is Nathan Horton recovered from his concussion?
Horton says he is fine, but Marc Savard said the same thing in the 2010 playoffs and now he is on the verge of retirement. The Bruins need Horton to be even better in year 2 in Boston than he was in year 1, during which he was inconsistent at times before turning it on in the playoffs. Remember, Horton had three game-winning goals, including two Game 7 winners against Montreal (in OT) and Tampa Bay.
4. Can Tuukka Rask regain his form of 2009-2010?
Rask was the surprise of the 2009-2010 season, but lost the starting job last year and struggled through most of the year. He did play better down the stretch, which allowed the Bruins to rest Tim Thomas over the final two weeks of the regular season. Rask has to be better this year or the Bruins will need to re-evaluate whether he truly is their goalie of the future. If he is not, they will need to trade him or let him leave via free agency and find someone to replace Thomas in a couple of years. Expect Rask to get plenty of playing time – more games and more consistent than last season.
5. Will Tyler Seguin make a big jump this season?
In addition to partying with his shirt off, Seguin hit the weight room hard in the off-season, packing on 10 pounds of muscle. The hope is a year of being held to high defensive standards and being slowly worked into the physical part of the game will benefit Seguin in the future. The Bruins hope this is the season Segin makes the jump to – at the very least – a solid NHL player. He has shown flashes of the offense of which he is capable, and if he can do that consistently, the Bruins will have a star. If it is inconsistent as it was last year, they have another Michael Ryder – well, one without the defensive skill.
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