The preseason hours are dwindling, and with the Flyers in town for Saturday’s matinee at the Garden, the Bruins still have a few jobs available.
As for an exact count, new coach Jim Montgomery is still running the numbers, including the threes that make up the forward lines and the twos in the defense pairings.
“A good question … I haven’t thought about it,” he said when asked to provide a hard number on what openings remain following Friday’s two workout sessions in Brighton. “I just know that I like the way the camp is going, as far as the players in the group starting to understand how we’re going to play faster and differently than they used to — and I also like there is such great depth.”
Montgomery, his club 1-1-0 in the exhibition season, will go with some of his A-list talent vs. the Flyers, including the top two lines that are expected to roll out for the season opener vs. the Capitals a week from Wednesday:
Pavel Zacha-Patrice Bergeron-Jake DeBrusk
Taylor Hall-David Krejci-David Pastrnak
Both of those trios were part of the first group that practiced Friday, along with goalies Linus Ullmark and Keith Kinkaid. Ullmark will be in net for the matinee, and is expected to play the full 60 minutes.
It’s likely that Montgomery also will deploy his five-forward power play, featuring Hall, Bergeron, and DeBrusk up front and fellow Czechs Krejci and Pastrnak firing from the points.
“I’ve got to meet with my staff on that,” said Montgomery. “But my gut says yes. I want to see what it looks like in a game.”
Zboril is recharged
Jakub Zboril, his 2021-22 season cut short at 10 games because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, has impressed Montgomery.
“He’s been outstanding,” said the coach. “One of the top five players in camp.”
Such praise for the 25-year-old backliner should indicate that Zboril has a spot secured on the varsity roster. He entered camp with odds in his favor, given that two of the starting six (Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk) will be out for weeks to months following offseason shoulder surgeries.
Zboril, one of the club’s three consecutive Round 1 picks in the 2015 draft, was playing the best hockey of his career prior to wrecking his knee Dec. 2 in Nashville. Finally, in his fifth season as a pro, he was playing with the kind of execution and confidence the Bruins hoped he would deliver two or three years earlier.
“You’re going to see better,” said a smiling Zboril after Friday’s workout. “I was just starting to get into the groove of things, feeling confident. I really wanted to go out there and show what’s in me, and then all of a sudden … it was over.”
Zboril was felled on a clean hit by Predators forward Tanner Jeannot, his right knee beginning to buckle a fraction of a second before Jeannot drilled him into the boards.
He used the long post-surgery rehab, all of it spent in Boston, to add to his upper-body strength. Part of the stronger, sturdier, more assertive Zboril in this camp is based on the added muscle, as well as the confidence that comes with time on the job.
“Mentality,” Zboril summed up in a word. “Before, when I got here, I was nervous, because when I got here I saw all these names — Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand. Those are top-of-the-top players. So I was nervous.
“I always wanted do my best. When I carried the puck, I didn’t want to give a bad pass, right? So I was always focusing on the bad stuff. And last year, I just told myself, ‘I’m a good player, too, and I’m just going to enjoy hockey and show what’s in me.’ ”
The value of bonding
Had the calendar allowed, Montgomery would have liked for the club to go on a two- or three-day retreat, a bonding exercise that the Bruins did in years past under Claude Julien and Bruce Cassidy just prior to the start of a new season.
“It can be a tremendous benefit,” offered Montgomery. “To be able to have the team and just be people around each other. If you do it early in camp, it’s 60 bodies and it’s not down to your group that’s going to be going through the journey together.”
That said, the club will travel a day early to Washington, practice there Tuesday, and enjoy a team dinner in the D.C. area prior to facing the Capitals in the Oct. 12 opener.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.