The Boston Bruins have their first preseason game Monday night in Quebec City at the Centre Videotron, where they will play as the home team and host the Montreal Canadiens. For the Bruins, many of the roster spots in this game have gone to younger players to see what they can do in a game situation.
There are a few veterans, and defenseman Chris Breen is an older player who has not been able to crack the Boston club’s lineup since joining the organization three season ago. The 6’7” Uxbridge, Ontario native has had some shoulder issues that certainly contributed to his struggles to make it to Boston, but he seems to be in a strong place coming into the current season.
“Good so far, I mean, testing day went well and the first days of skates I felt pretty good and the pace was pretty good at camp.” Breen told me.
While this is Bruce Cassidy’s first full season with the Boston Bruins as Head Coach, he is quite familiar with what kind of a player Breen can be.
“I think he’s got a lot to offer. He’s a good defender. He’s a good skater for a big man,” Cassidy said. “He can move the puck, sees the ice. He can make a first pass.”
Cassidy’s familiarity with Breen and Breen’s familiarity with the systems and the staff make for perhaps an easier transition for the imposing defenseman.
“Having the coaches be a little more familiar with me and what I can bring to the team, to the game, I think that helps me for sure,” he shared. “I’ve played the system before so I’d be comfortable jumping in and playing games.”
Preseason is a time to seize any opportunity, and one of those is to understand that the coaching staff is looking at which of the players can jump right in and get to work. For Breen, he hasn’t played this early in the preseason before, but he’s happy for the chance.
“I like the idea of getting in the first game and getting my feet under me and not having to sit around and watch other people play,” he said smiling.
He’s conscious that he is being evaluated, but he’s also set some of his own benchmarks for his performance in Monday night’s tilt with the Habs.
“Just have a good steady game,” he expressed when I asked him what he wanted from the game. “Just set a foundation that I can build on this season and show the club that I can continue improving and that I might be a good fit for the team.”
Being as big as he is, there could be some who feel he can’t bring enough to the game in the way of agility and puck movement, but even with that, it’s important to have someone watching that blue line and Breen feels he’s the person for that job.
“I think I’ve been a pretty reliable defenseman down in Providence for the last three years now and consistency and good defensive play, and you know, just kind of a steady presence at the blue line,” Breen said in describing his strengths.
“He was arguably Providence’s best defenseman in the playoffs last year. I’m going by what I hear,” Cassidy said about Breen’s game.
For the first time since the 2008-09 season the Providence Bruins made it to the third round of the playoffs before falling to the Syracuse Crunch. However, Breen was one of the reasons the team was able to get as far as they did this past season.
When the puck drops Monday night, Breen will have an opportunity to show Coach Cassidy and the rest of the Boston Bruins staff what he can do in a game situation, which is arguably the best evaluation. If he can stay healthy, his size; “long fuse,” as Cassidy described; and consistency at the blue line could serve Boston well.