There had been no confirmation all summer, though speculation had been rampant. Loui Eriksson would skate with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, no?
Jarome Iginla would take the right wing with David Krejci and Milan Lucic, right?
It seemed to make sense. Then came the list of Bruins practice groups that was posted Wednesday, the first trio in Group A and the second in Group B. There, finally, was some evidence.
“That’s basically what it is,” coach Claude Julien said. “I think we traded for those guys not to say, ‘You guys are on a tryout,’ but to put them in spots where we think they can fit in.
“This is what training camp is for. We’re going to give them that opportunity to maybe build some chemistry, get to know each other a little bit better, and at one point we are going to have to make a decision whether it seems to suit our needs or not.”
For now, the players are just finding their way, both in their own games and with each other. Julien said he saw them looking to pass more than anything, more than shooting, more than finding a scoring chance.
They’ll need to build their chemistry over the next three weeks, as they give management, coaches, and teammates glimpses of what they could eventually be.
Because skating together and skating well together are two entirely different things.
“You need to have chemistry,” Krejci said. “If you have three really, really good players all on one line and the chemistry is not there, there is nothing you can do.
“You feel lost out there. You don’t know what to do. You don’t know what the other guy is doing.
“So it’s very important to have the chemistry as a line.”
There were good looks, he thought. Good moments, as the trio began to build that together on the first day of official on-ice practice. But it will take time and repetition and conversation.
Krejci said he would spend some time speaking with Lucic and Iginla, to get on the same page with where Iginla likes the puck, with how his game works exactly, to figure out how best they can work as a unit.
“We still need to have the big talk about what we expect from each other out there,” Krejci said. “We’re going to talk about it in the next couple days.”
Something that helps the first line is that Iginla is “pretty much the same player” as Nathan Horton, according to Krejci: physical and gritty.
His coach agreed.
“I don’t know how much we have to adapt to him or how much he has to adapt to us,” Julien said. “I think it is actually a pretty good fit when it comes to him being on our hockey club. I think that is one of the reasons he called us and wanted to play for us.”
There may be more adjustments on the second line, where Eriksson joins Bergeron and Marchand in place of Tyler Seguin, who was traded.
Seguin and Eriksson are certainly different players, but that line may be helped by the fact that Eriksson plays a style that seems more suited to their play than Seguin’s did.
“He fits in the way that we play as a team and also as a line,” Bergeron said. “We like to be hard on the forecheck and turn the puck over. It seems to be his game as well, so I think that’s great.
“We’ve always kind of played the same type of game. We’re obviously going to keep that going and I think he’s going to help keep that going.”
The players all agree it will help that the coaching staff put them together immediately, which isn’t the case for some of the other players.
The defensive groups, for instance, included a Zdeno Chara-Zach Trotman pairing, which is a lot less likely to show up on the ice against the Lightning in that first game than some other options.
And the offense included a Jordan Caron-Chris Kelly-Reilly Smith line.
“It’s great to have this time right now to get used to each other and learn how each other plays,” Marchand said. “The more time, the better.”
So, for now, the top two lines appear set. And given that, the coaching staff is happy to give them the opportunity to get to know each other, work together, and to communicate on the ice.
“You hope that it’s there immediately, but obviously it’s something that no matter who you play with it’s something that you have to work at,” Lucic said. “I think that all three of us are determined to make it work and find that chemistry. The sooner we do it, the better we’ll be.”