The Boston Bruins finally were back in action Thursday night after a long break in the schedule, and they gave one of their best performances of the early NHL season.
A resurgent power play, Patrice Bergeron's four goals and strong goaltending all propelled the B's to a convincing 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden.
The Bruins' record improves to 5-3-0 with the victory. They'll hit the road for a showdown with the rival Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday night. It's the first meeting between these Original Six franchises since Nov. 15, 2019.
Here are three takeaways from Bruins vs. Red Wings.
1) Bergeron on the board
Patrice Bergeron's offensive struggles were among the early-season surprises for the Bruins. The B's captain has scored 20-plus goals in eight consecutive seasons, but he had zero goals and only 11 5-on-5 shots through the first seven games.
Everything changed Thursday night.
Bergeron scored four goals -- including the first hat trick by a Bruin this season -- with three of these tallies coming on the power play. Bergeron was again stationed in the bumper position on the power play, and the Red Wings inexplicably gave him way too much time and space with the puck. He made them pay.
Bergeron also put on a clinic in the faceoff circle, where he won 16 of his 19 draws.
The criticism of Bergeron the last few days was a little premature.
2) Power-play surge
The Bruins' power play was in a slump for the first few weeks of the season. Not only was this unit failing to score over the first six games (just two goals), it also wasn't drawing many penalties, evidenced by its 16 power-play opportunities over that span (29th in the league).
The last two games have been a different story. It was only a matter of time before a power play with three of the top forwards in the world started to roll.
Boston scored once on three power-play chances in a 3-2 shootout win against the Florida Panthers last Thursday, and they converted on three of five power plays versus the Red Wings.
What's improved for the Bruins with the man advantage? The puck movement has been better, they're being more aggressive getting pucks to the net, they're consistently winning puck battles below the goal line and the zone entries have been crisper.
The challenge for the Bruins' power play right now is to establish some consistency.
3) Bruins' defense airtight
The Red Wings generated very little offensively against a Bruins team that was so well structured in all three zones. The B's gave up just 12 shots on net, 14 scoring chances and only two high-danger scoring chance during 5-on-5 action.
Nearly all of the Red Wings' action at even strength came from outside the danger areas in the front of the net, as you can see in the heatmap below (via Natural Stat Trick):
The best 5-on-5 scoring chance of the game for the Red Wings came in the second period when Lucas Raymond was all alone with Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman, who denied the No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft with a fantastic save.
Boston's penalty kill also was pretty good, allowing three shot attempts (one shot on net) during four Red Wings power plays.
The only blemish for the Bruins penalty kill was a Red Wings goal during a 5-on-3 advantage, but it took the B's just 24 seconds to get it back when Mike Reilly scored his team's first shorthanded tally of the season.
Overall, it was an excellent defensive performance from the Bruins in all situations.