BOSTON — At a time when uncertainty surrounds the Bruins’ 2014-15 roster, there is at least one thing that is expected to stay the same.
Though three of Boston’s lines are expected to feature some new faces, there is one that should be very familiar when the puck drops on Wednesday night at TD Garden: Patrice Bergeron centering Brad Marchand and Reilly Smith.
For Bergeron, knowing that Marchand, his longtime linemate, will be on his left side once again this season provides some added confidence heading into the new season.
“We’ve been linemates for so long now,” Bergeron told pool reporters on Monday as he and his teammates traveled back from a two-day team building trip in Vermont. “[In 2010], we definitely found some chemistry quickly and right away. We felt comfortable with one another, and I think as time goes on, and you get more years behind you, it becomes second-nature.”
Marchand, who played his first full NHL season in the 2010-11 season, began his career on the fourth line with Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell. Midway through the year, Head Coach Claude Julien moved him up to play with Bergeron and Mark Recchi, and they never looked back.
“With the two of us and where we're going on the ice, and where to put the puck, I know what to do when Marchy's on the ice and he knows my strengths as well,” Bergeron said. “We try to play into that. He's definitely a player I enjoy playing with, and I’ve developed a great friendship and chemistry with him.”
Given the anticipated new additions to this year’s lineup — particularly up front — that chemistry will hopefully provide some consistency heading into a season with a few more unknowns than in years past.
Bergeron said that is is also a comfort to have Reilly Smith back in the fold. The restricted free agent missed the first week of training camp as the Bruins worked with him to come to an agreement on a new contract, eventually settling on a one-year, $1.4 million deal.
The trio did not begin the 2013-14 season as a line, but once they were slotted in together, there was no going back. Their chemistry — like that which formed between Marchand and Bergeron in 2010-11 — was instantaneous and undeniable. Together, they combined for 166 points, and Bergeron achieved his first 30-goal season since 2005-06.
Bergeron, Marchand and Smith played together as a line just once during this preseason — in Saturday night’s final exhibition game — but Bergeron said that was all it took to reestablish some chemistry.
“I thought [Smith] looked great,” Bergeron said. “You know, skating on your own is different than skating in training camp -- the intensity increases, and you have to battle. Obviously, the physical play — it's just part of the game. Even though he's in great shape, that doesn't mean you're in game shape, but I thought he showed up and didn't really miss a beat. He looked great right away, right from the get-go.
“By the way he looked in the first game -- it was nice, like I said, for us to get that game together as a line, just to get back to doing our little things on the ice and knowing where the guys will be and getting adjusted to that again.”
With the season kicking off on Wednesday night against Philadelphia, the Bruins used this past weekend as an opportunity to get off the ice and do some team-building in Vermont, a practice that Bergeron acknowledged is even more important this year than it has been in years past. In the past, the Bruins have often known exactly who will be in the lineup on Opening Night, but this year, there is no such certainty.
This weekend provided an opportunity for more chemistry to develop — not just between Bergeron and his linemates, but among all 27 players still in contention for roster spots. Hopefully, that will translate into a much-needed strong start to the 2014-15 season, which begins with six games in nine days.
“Looking at the schedule, we have a lot of games early on,” Bergeron said. “It’s a little different for us — I think we haven’t really had a start this busy for a few years, so it’s definitely something where we have to get off to a good start. We have to establish a connection with all the new players and everyone is going to have to make sure we’re dialed in and that we definitely need to carry on what we’ve accomplished already.”
Like Bergeron’s expected line, though, his attitude this season remains the same as it has in the past.
“We need to keep getting better game after game,” he said, “and go from there.”