Bruins

Bruins-Flyers takeaways: Swayman struggles, McAvoy-Grzelcyk duo shines

Bruins

The Boston Bruins finally played their second game of the 2021-22 NHL season on Wednesday night, and it was a pretty entertaining one for those watching.

Typically, scoring three goals is enough to win, especially for a Bruins team that prides itself on strong defensive play. But shaky goaltending from Jeremy Swayman and a couple bad defensive breakdowns cost the Bruins in a 6-3 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.

Here are three takeaways from the B's first loss of the season.

1) Yes... Jeremy Swayman is human

Expectations are high for Swayman in 2021-22, and rightly so, after his excellent performance last season. But it was always crazy to expect him to be a top-tier goalie right away. There will be growing pains and lackluster outings for the 23-year-old rookie, and Wednesday's loss is an example.

Swayman didn't show the same poise and composure in net that he displayed in the season opener last Saturday. He allowed five goals on just 24 shots. It's the first time in 12 career NHL appearances he's given up more than three goals.

One goal Swayman should have prevented was Scott Laughton's tally early in the second period. Instead of corralling James van Riemsdyk's tough-angle shot or kicking the rebound into a safer area, Swayman sent it right up the slot, where Laughton beat Jake DeBrusk to the puck and capitalized on the scoring chance.

"He's not gonna be perfect every night," Cassidy said of Swayman in his postgame press conference. "Clearly, he wasn't tonight. Not his best. We needed some saves there when we broke down. That's it. Just didn't give us when we needed them. Our breakdowns were bad in front of him. Wasn't a lot of quantity, but high quality."

 

2) Let's not see the Forbort-McAvoy pairing again

Putting free-agent acquisition Derek Forbort on the first pairing with Charlie McAvoy was never a good idea. Forbort is not the type of player to maximize McAvoy's brilliant offensive talent.

McAvoy has much stronger chemistry with his old Boston University teammate, Matt Grzelcyk, and the Bruins play better as a team when these two are paired. Both were painfully obvious Wednesday night, and that's probably why B's head coach Bruce Cassidy made the switch back to the Grzelcyk-McAvoy pairing early in the game.

The Bruins tilted the ice in their favor in a huge way when this pairing was on the ice. Boston tallied a 22-12 edge in shot attempts, an 11-3 lead in shots on net, a 15-5 advantage in scoring chances and outscored the Flyers 2-0 during the 16:31 of 5-on-5 ice time McAvoy and Grzelcyk spent together. 

McAvoy's pass that led to Taylor Hall's goal in the second period was a thing of beauty:

The Grzelcyk-McAvoy pairing was one of the league's best last season. Forbort provides more shot blocking and physicality than Grzelcyk, but the former BU star is a much better skater, a far superior playmaker and starts the rush up ice more efficiently. 

Forbort, in an ideal world, is a strong penalty killer and a solid third-pairing defenseman. Putting him on the top pairing alongside one of the top-five defensemen in the game is not wise.

3) Brad Marchand's hot start continues

After scoring twice in the season-opening win over the Dallas Stars, Marchand found the back of the net a third time Wednesday night with a late second-period tally to tie the score at three.

Marchand has never scored 40 goals in a season, although he came close with 37 in 2015-16 and 39 in 2016-17. He's scored 30-plus goals four times overall. It's obviously super early in the season with just two games played, but if Marchand stays healthy, there's a good chance he'll get to the 40-goal mark for the first time.

There will be plenty of opportunities for him. Not only is Marchand an elite offensive player, he will get plenty of power-play ice time and his linemates -- Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak -- are two of the best players in the world.