The Bruins were hoping to put on a show for a crowd of Bruins fans that packed the lower bowl at TD Garden for Saturday’s public training camp session. They did that with a Group A scrimmage at the end of Saturday morning’s practice session that was short on goals, but long on intensity for a group longing to get back into game action.
Free agent forward Scott Campbell provided the only goal of the scrimmage session while skating with Bobby Robins and Jack Downing on a pure grit line, and managed to light the lamp against Tuukka Rask and the Patrice Bergeron/Brad Marchand/Loui Eriksson trio.
Otherwise it was a competitive, fast-paced 15 minutes of scrimmage hockey with Marchand and Robins getting into a shoving match up the ice at one point, but the actual scoring chances were few and far between.
A couple of observations from Group A after watching practice on the TD Garden ice for the last three days:
· Reilly Smith is skating as the right wing with Chris Kelly and Jordan Caron, and seems to be getting a pretty healthy audition for a role on the third line to start the season. Smith doesn’t really stand out size-wise at 6-feet and 185 pounds or with blazing skating speed, but there’s a tenacity and competitiveness to his game that’s been noticeable in camp over the last few days. Given that smart grittiness and the offensive numbers he’s posted in the AHL, Smith looks like he could be one of the early favorites to lock down one of the open third line spots. My best guess for the third line right now: Soderberg-Kelly-Smith with Caron as the extra forward when training camp breaks in a few weeks.
· Johnny Boychuk is continuing to mix in the wrist shot with his trademark booming slapper as he did while piling up goals in last year’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, and he continues to get good results. If Boychuk can really open up his game offensively this season from the defensemen position, he’s really got a chance to really elevate his value as he hits the prime years for most NHL defensemen.
· Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson are going to be able to fore-check the daylights out of opponents as a group of three forwards working together on the same line. Their combination of skating speed, hockey IQ and doggedness is going to cause a lot of problems for opposing defensemen, and is going to lead to plenty of offensive chances for the trio. One can already see how this line is going to become one of the NHL’s best very, very quickly.
· Thus far Patrice Bergeron doesn’t look at all hindered by the tenderness he still feels in the rib/core area. It may very well be something that he plays through during the first few weeks – or months – of the season. The only area that could potentially be a problem is in the face-off circle, so one should keep a keen eye on whether No. 37 is lining up for a lot of draws when he suits up for the preseason games.
· Guys like Jared Knight, Alex Khokhlachev and Justin Florek have shown flashes for Group A, but they need to start making an impact in some of the preseason games coming up on the schedule starting Monday night in Montreal. The Bruins management team is going to be watching all of their young players very closely in the game action once it kicks off next week, and that’s where a heralded youngster could start making a serious push for a roster spot.