After a lot of waiting, the Boston Bruins will finally open the 2023-24 NHL season against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday. The Bruins went 2-2-2 in six preseason games, leaving time to tell if Jim Montgomery's team is ready to put last season's playoff collapse in the rearview.
Whenever a new season begins, it's fun to project the opening night roster. This year's Bruins look a bit different after a summer filled with retirements and offseason moves. We'll need the best possible opening night lineup if we hope to begin the new campaign on the right foot.
Keep that in mind, here's what the Bruins' opening night lineup should look like next Wednesday.
Projecting Bruins Opening Night Lineup 2023-24
Line #1: James Van Riemsdyk — Pavel Zacha — David Pastrnak
With Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retired, Pavel Zacha opens the 2023-24 season as Boston's top center. The 26-year-old center is poised to take the next step forward after setting career highs when it came to goals (21), assists (36), and points (57) last year.
Having said that, it makes sense to pair Zacha with 61-goal-scorer David Pastrnak. After all, other than Krejci, Pastrnak was Zacha's most frequent linemate last season, so the duo already have a strong sense of chemistry.
It makes sense to pair James Van Riemsdyk with the aforementioned pair. Although JVR isn't in his prime anymore, he did score 24 goals just two seasons ago, so maybe pairing him with Zacha and Pastrnak will help lead to the eighth 20-goal campaign of his career.
Line #2: Brad Marchand — Matthew Poitras — Jake DeBrusk
Entering his first year as Boston's captain, Brad Marchand should lead this year's second line. He isn't afraid to play wherever the coaching staff needs him. He might have turned 35 over the offseason, but his 21-goal, 67-point performance shows that he still has plenty left in the tank.
Reuniting with Marchand should be none other than Jake DeBrusk. The duo spent over 413 minutes on a line with Bergeron last season, resulting in DeBrusk tallying a personal-best 50 points in 64 games (on pace for 64 points in 82 contests). Why try to fix what isn't broken, right?
But with no Bergeron to center them, the best option this year is rookie sensation Matthew Poitras. The 19-year-old forward led the Bruins in goals (3) and points (5) during the preseason and didn't look out of place playing top-line minutes.
With Poitras' skillset, it'd be a waste to play him on the bottom two lines. Yes, he'll face a lot of pressure, but playing with skilled players like Marchand and DeBrusk should help see how high Poitras' ceiling truly is.