Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night at American Airlines Arena.
1) Charlie Coyle showed on opening night that he’s ready to pick up right where he left off during the playoffs, and where he was as Boston’s best player during training camp. Coyle finished with just a single assist and had only one shot on net in 16:49 of ice time, but he was a dominant force when it mattered for Boston. It was Coyle that forced a turnover on a won board battle against the side boards just before Brett Ritchie’s goal, and it was the third line center that controlled puck possession on the PP before Danton Heinen got the puck in a scoring position for the game-winner. For good measure Coyle also jumped in front of goalie Ben Bishop to screen on that goal as well. That was all good enough offensively to carry the B’s to victory, and showed how important it is for Coyle to step up as a third line center with offensive capability on nights – like Thursday – when it’s clear that Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak don’t have it. With a full season of Coyle transforming the third line into something viable and dangerous, it could be a game-changer for the Bruins in the best way possible.
2) After not getting much of a read on what Brett Ritchie could do in a training camp where David Krejci barely played, it’s good to see the new B’s power forward contribute like he did on opening night. Ritchie played 12:55 of ice time, threw a couple of hits and leveled three shot attempts including a goal on his first shot attempt as a member of the Bruins. Perhaps some of it was a little extra jump in his step playing his former team in the Dallas Stars, or it was just the adrenaline of opening night. But if Ritchie can bring some production, some toughness and his size/strength package on a nightly basis in a noticeable way, the Bruins will have something here in the kind of player they could use more of. It’s an encouraging start for Ritchie in Black and Gold.
3) Was it my imagination or was David Backes definitely moving around better on Thursday night? It sure looks like the 35-year-old’s skating work this summer has turned into a real benefit as he was moving around without difficulty in a game that was being played at a very high pace. Backes teamed with Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner for an excellent power line that took back some game momentum with an extended puck possession shift toward the end of the second period. Backes finished with four shot attempts and a hit in 10:45 of ice time and was looking to make plays rather than laboring to keep up with the play. We’ll see what happens when the strain of the regular season workload has its effect, but Backes looked like a guy that’s going to be able to help the Bruins on opening. That’s a big development coming off the seven goals and 20 points he struggled to produce last season.
*Charlie Coyle playing a dominant role in setting up both goals for the Bruins, played strong two-way hockey and looked like the fast, big and strong asset that he was for the Black and Gold during last season.
*Brett Ritchie scored on the first shot of the game for the Bruins after picking up a loose puck following a won battle along the boards by Charlie Coyle. For a player that didn’t show much in training camp, it was an important start to the year.
*Tuukka Rask made 28 saves overall, but was massive in the third period with 16 saves while protecting a one-goal lead with a desperate Dallas group throwing everything at him.
*Jack Edwards calling it “hockey karma” when Roman Polak suffered an apparent head/neck injury after going head-first into the boards following brief contact with Chris Wagner. C’mon Jack, you’re better than that.
*A combined three shots on net for the Bruins Perfection Line with David Pastrnak missing on all three of his shot attempts in the game. Their struggles were obvious 5-on-5 and the first PP unit featuring all three also struggled mightily during their first game of the season.
*David Krejci isn’t healthy to start the regular season and didn’t play on Thursday night. It didn’t impact the result obviously, but it’s an early sign of concern for a team that could realistically be facing bumps and bruises all season.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.