Boston Bruins Head Coach Jim Montgomery has some difficult decisions for Game 1 of the playoffs. The Boston Bruins are back to full health heading into Monday’s opening playoff game. At full strength, Boston has the deepest roster in the NHL, and some good players will have to sit out come Monday. Nobody deserves to sit in the TD Garden rafters, but at least three deserving players will be held out of each playoff game. Jim Montgomery must make tough lineup decisions before each playoff game.
Here is a preview of what the Bruins lineup may look like heading into Game 1.
The Bruins top-nine forward group is essentially a lock. If fully healthy, the B’s will likely roll with the top six unit they have rolled out all year, with Bertuzzi and Hall playing on a line with Charlie Coyle. However, the fourth line is where there will be competition for playing time. Nick Foligno, Garnet Hathaway, AJ Greer, Trent Frederic, and Tomas Nosek are qualified to play a significant role in this playoff run. Since being traded to the Bruins, Hathaway has been a force to be reckoned with. He plays a nasty in-your-face style of hockey and is an outstanding defensive forward. His physicality and defensive awareness lock him in for a fourth-line role for this Stanley Cup run. The same goes for Nosek, whose strong defensive play and exceptional face-off skills will be crucial for the playoffs. Leaving Trent Frederic, AJ Greer, and Nick Foligno to compete for that twelfth forward spot.
AJ Greer is an incredible team player and perfectly plays the role of an energetic fourth-line pest. Greer has played some terrific hockey down the stretch for the Bruins, but he is competing against players who offer more experience and offense than he does. If the Bruins play a flat, lifeless game, AJ Greer is the first player I want to see come into the lineup to boost this team. He deserves to be playing, but the Bruins depth will likely force him to sit out Game 1. It’s a shame he may be the odd guy out for the playoffs since he is done everything the Bruins have asked of him, but I am confident he will play a role of some sort during these Stanley Cup playoffs.
Frederic is the most improved Bruins player from the 21-22 season. He is a whole new player playing under Jim Montgomery. Frederic has done nothing to deserve sitting out of the lineup. The 25-year-old scored a career-high 17 goals this season while significantly improving his defensive game. Frederic’s development has played a crucial role in the Bruins historic season, and he plays the physical style of hockey that is needed for the playoffs. It seems impossible to scratch him, but with this Bruins roster, it is difficult to know who plays and who sits out.
If Nick Foligno is healthy, he deserves to be in the lineup. His experience, leadership, and work ethic are second to none in the entire NHL. He understands what it takes to win this time of year as much as anyone in that locker room. Foligno is a needed presence in both the lineup and the locker room. When he is healthy, Foligno can be a physical force on the ice who can also provide you with some offensive creativity and a strong net-front presence. A former NHL Captain in Columbus, Foligno led the team that defeated the 2018-2019 Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round of the playoffs. The Lightning were the last regular season team that dominated the NHL like the Bruins just did. Foligno knows as well as anyone what can happen if the Bruins take any opponent too lightly. We all know he will not allow this team to take their foot off the gas for even one game. Nick Foligno needs to play. The 16-year NHL veteran can be the X-Factor for the Bruins for this Cup run. He just needs to be healthy. He knows the Bruins cannot afford to take any game lightly this time of year. He is a strong motivator who we know will not allow this team will not let the Bruins take any opponent lightly for even one night.
My projection: Foligno Nosek-Hathaway
The Bruins have seven defensemen capable of eating minutes on the back end. Their top four defensemen are set with Orlov, McAvoy, Lindholm, and Carlo, with players like Clifton, Gryzleck, and Forbort playing for a spot. Which of those players sits out during the playoffs is a highly divisive topic among Bruins fans. Each defenseman has their fans, and all three bring something different. Clifton is a physical defender who is always heavily involved in the play. Gryzleck has an outstanding transition game and is an excellent puck mover, and Forbort is one of the best Penalty Killing defensemen in the game.
I believe the Clifton and Forbort pairing provides the Bruins with more grit and makes the Bruins a tougher defensive team. They play a style better suited for playoff hockey than M who does not have the best playoff track record. I know Forbort’s role is similar to Brandon Carlo’s on the PK, but having two players who can block shots and eat the tough defensive minutes is a luxury the Bruins should not waste, especially with a talented offense that generates a lot of chances as Florida does.
I think the Bruins will use the rotation they had in place when all seven players were healthy. All of their defensemen can play big roles on this team and provide the Bruins with something different. Similar to their forwards, all of these defensemen deserve to play, and I think they will all get a shot to compete for a spot in the lineup. The Bruins lineup in Game 1 is not necessarily what we will see in Game 2 or for the remainder of the series. Nothing is set in stone with this group. I have never seen a team with as much depth as the Bruins. With guys competing to be in the lineup, I expect the Bruins to play at a high level every single shift because there will be someone else fighting for a lineup spot before every playoff game.