Boston Bruins: Matt Beleskey Returning Raises Questions


Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins are going to need to make a few decisions when Matt Beleskey is ready to return to their lineup. Claude Julien has had no issue with shuffling lines in the past, and even did so as recently as Friday when the Bruins played on the road against the New York Islanders. With so many NHL-caliber forwards at their disposal, the questions are clear:

1. Who will be the healthy scratch for at least the first game that Matt Beleskey is back?

2. What will the lines look like?

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When looking at who the healthy scratch should be for the Bruins, it isn’t a question of who has played poorly, but more a question of who didn’t stand out in the Bruins game against the Islanders. There are a few locks to remain in the lineup, including Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Loui Eriksson. That should remain a constant truth throughout the season, barring any trades involving those players. Based on the game against the Islanders, a few other locks for the Bruins next game should also include:

Ryan Spooner – 1 goal, 1 assist
Jonas Kemppainen – 1 goal, 1 assist
Brett Connolly – 1 goal
David Pastrnak – 1 goal

The remaining players that the Bruins could look at scratching include:

Zac Rinaldo
Tyler Randell
Jimmy Hayes
Chris Kelly

Claude Julien isn’t likely to scratch Chris Kelly from the lineup anytime soon due to his defensive and penalty killing abilities. Kelly has also been known to provide some offense when moving up the lineup to the third line, and even a top-six role in the past.

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  • Jimmy Hayes also isn’t likely to be a scratch due to his recent play, which has included 2 goal and 3 assists in the last 3 games. Hayes played arguably his best game against the Philadelphia Flyers, skating hard and generating offense throughout the entire game and scoring one goal for Boston.

    Tyler Randell has played in three NHL games and has scored two goals, and came very close to scoring two more against the Islanders. The fact that he’s only played in three games and has a fourth line role makes him one of the logical replacements in the lineup, but it wouldn’t be very good for his confidence if Claude Julien scratches him after his first game of being held of the score sheet.

    Zac Rinaldo has been a very good energy player for the Bruins, but hasn’t done much in terms of offense in the Bruins first seven games of the season. Rinaldo was also under scrutiny for his hit on Philadelphia Flyers forward Sean Couturier, and while the hit was deemed clean, and rightfully so, it’s still a mark on his resume. Claude Julien has requested that Zac Rinaldo provide more energy and agitation for the Bruins, and could look at scratching him to send a message.

    With the assumption that Zac Rinaldo is the odd man out for at least Beleskey’s first game back, a few projected lineups could look like the following:

    Matt BeleskeyDavid KrejciDavid Pastrnak
    Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronLoui Eriksson
    Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerBrett Connolly
    Chris Kelly – Jonas Kemppainen – Tyler Randell

    This configuration is almost identical to the Bruins opening day lineup, with the exception of the fourth line in which Tyler Randell is now penciled in at the right wing position. This lineup potential has some problems including the separation of Brett Connolly from the Patrice Bergeron line, and sliding Jimmy Hayes back to the left wing. It has been clear that Brett Connolly and Jimmy Hayes both play their best hockey on their natural wing, and Connolly has scored in two consecutive games and posted at least one point in three consecutive games while skating alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

    Loui Eriksson – David KrejciDavid Pastrnak
    Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron – Brett Connolly
    Matt BeleskeyRyan SpoonerJimmy Hayes
    Chris Kelly – Jonas Kemppainen – Tyler Randell

    This lineup is slightly better than the last, but the Bruins are unlikely to want Matt Beleskey skating on the third line after being signed to a five year contract in the offseason. Beleskey has been effective on David Krejci‘s left wing, and should return to that spot when he returns to the lineup.

    Matt BeleskeyDavid Krejci –  Loui Eriksson
    Brad MarchandPatrice Bergeron – Brett Connolly
    Jimmy HayesRyan SpoonerDavid Pastrnak
    Chris Kelly – Jonas Kemppainen – Tyler Randell

    While removing the David Krejci and David Pastrnak duo from the lineup isn’t ideal, it might be necessary for at least one game for a few reasons:

    1. Loui Eriksson needs to skate in a top-six capacity, he’s proven that he still has the ability to put points on the board and play a two-way game.

    2. Matt Beleskey should remain alongside David Krejci

    3. Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak had immediate chemistry last season when they played together and they could be reunited to spark even more offense for the Bruins. Ryan Spooner was relegated to a fourth line role last game against the Islanders, which clearly benefited both him and Jonas Kemppainen who combined for four points, including one goal a piece.

    The major issue with this lineup remains the fact that Jimmy Hayes didn’t play well on the left wing to start the season. The poor play on the left side could simply be a result of him being new to the lineup, and Claude Julien could experiment with it once more, now that Hayes has gained experience and confidence while playing in the Bruins lineup.

    The Bruins have a lot of questions to be answered, but they are in an enviable position with so many NHL caliber players ready to play in various roles.

    Follow Brandon Share-Cohen on Twitter @BShareCohen to discuss all things Bruins and sports

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