Jim Montgomery said it typically takes his teams three weeks of regular-season games to internalize his style and structure — before they can “play fast” — without thinking too much.
Given that he is not deviating greatly from the methods already in use here, he feels these Bruins could adjust more rapidly to their new coach.
Montgomery’s lines, it seems, could be in flux for months.
With Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy out with injuries to start the year, and Matt Grzelcyk and Taylor Hall unlikely to go for the season opener, the Bruins lineup we see in Saturday’s preseason finale against the Devils might not look anything like what we will see next month, by the holidays, or in the second half.
Here’s what we know about the lineup heading into Saturday:
▪ Pavel Zacha will be with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. Montgomery said he wants to find a solidified spot for Zacha, but for now, he’s with his fellow Czechs.
“They were really good in practice yesterday,” Montgomery said. “The game they played [Wednesday against the Rangers] was really good. He seemed to have a lot of jump.
“Now, is that jump just because he’s getting better throughout camp and he can do that with anyone? I don’t know. But right now, that chemistry he had with Krejci and Pasta was really good.”
When Hall recovers, he could skate with Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk. But that’s only if Zacha stays hot with Krejci and Pastrnak. If not, Montgomery will mix up his trios.
“That’s what I’m thinking right now,” the coach said. “Short memory, right? If they’re not good tomorrow, put it in a blender.”
▪ Nick Foligno could be the placeholder for Hall, who skated in a noncontact jersey Friday. Saturday is a critical game for Foligno, who is older, slower, and more expensive (cap hit: $3.8 million) than other left-shot grinders Trent Frederic, A.J. Greer, and Jakub Lauko. He has to show he can move the needle.
At practice, Foligno held down a net-front spot on the second power-play unit, with Mike Reilly at the point, Charlie Coyle and Zacha in the circles, and Craig Smith in the slot. The No. 1 PP group was Hampus Lindholm at the top, Krejci and Pastrnak in the circles, DeBrusk at the net-front, and Bergeron in the slot.
▪ Forwards on the roster bubble entering the final preseason game include Greer, Lauko, Chris Wagner, Tomas Nosek, and Jack Studnicka. Both Wagner and Studnicka shed their one-day “do not hit” status. They practiced in full.
Nosek and Wagner were a penalty-kill pair, as were Greer-Frederic and Lauko-Studnicka. The latter combined for a shorthanded goal in drills, Studnicka picking off a pass and Lauko finishing at the other end.
▪ Reilly got a look on the right side (his off side) of Lindholm. Jakub Zboril skated on the left (his natural side) of Brandon Carlo. Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton were the third defense pair. The Bruins will have seven healthy defensemen if Anton Stralman, who is still on a professional tryout agreement, signs a contract.
▪ Grzelcyk, recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, skated in a regular jersey for the first time all camp. He did not take any significant contact, but he is cleared to do so. Still working on his conditioning, Grzelcyk skated on an extra pair with Stralman and is likely out for Saturday.
▪ Montgomery wouldn’t say whether Hall, who remains in a noncontact jersey, could be cleared for the season opener Wednesday. Hall sustained an upper-body injury last Saturday against the Flyers.
▪ Linus Ullmark will start in net against the Devils. If he plays well, he could get the call in Washington over Jeremy Swayman.