Here’s What We Learned from a weekend where the Bruins took a 1-0 shutout victory over the Arizona Coyotes to push out to a 2-0-0 start on their four game Western Conference swing to begin the regular season.
1) Jaroslav Halak looks primed to again take playing time from Tuukka Rask. The talk during training camp is that Rask would probably get more in the range of 50-55 starts this season after finishing with only 46 games played a season ago. He wouldn’t be taking any leave of absence this season, after all, and one would expect that Rask is going to get off to a better start than he did last season when he limped through October. Obviously Rask looked good on opening night and it doesn’t appear that we’re going to see his usually sluggish start, but Halak was even better stopping 35 shots in Saturday night’s shutout of the Coyotes. He was stopping breakaway chances and shutting down tic-tac-toe passing plays from Phil Kessel and Clayton Keller, and generally stepped up on a night when the Bruins weren’t really all that good against a young, hungry hockey team. This is all good news for the Black and Gold. If Rask stumbles a little early then Halak is there to step in and get the B’s through the early portion of the season again, and if not then Halak is going to again push Rask hard for playing time while making sure both are playing at high levels.
2) The Bruins top line has thankfully knocked the rust off their game. They weren’t great on Saturday night either, but they were good enough to get the win against the Coyotes. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron teamed up with a first period goal late in the stanza after the entire team had struggled for most of the opening 20 minutes. It was vintage work by the B’s dynamic duo with Bergeron sliding a backhanded pass to Marchand in the face-off circle for a short side snipe past Darcy Kuemper. That ended up being the difference in the game, but it was also a byproduct of the top trio being much more in sync with 15 shot attempts from the three explosive forwards. They were generating offense and chances, and that’s exactly where they need to be for the B’s to enjoy sustained success. Saturday night was evidence it isn’t going to take very long for them to get back to their usual dominant level.
3) It’s early in the season, but it sure looks like Charlie McAvoy is going to be the workhorse for the Bruins. He’s led the B’s in ice time in each of his first two games and is averaging 22:18 of ice time while playing in all situations and kicking in a little bit of offense thus far. Interestingly enough 42-year-old Zdeno Chara has also been under 20 minutes of ice time in each of the first two games even as others like Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo also topped 20 minutes in Saturday night’s win over the Coyotes. Many have screamed and cried about “load management” for aging players like Chara and Patrice Bergeron to preserve them for the long haul, including getting them at their peak in the playoffs. Whelp, it looks like the B’s are doing just that a few games into the regular season.
*Brad Marchand had the game’s only goal, six shot attempts and was much better on Saturday than he was in Thursday night’s opener in Dallas.
*Jaroslav Halak stopped 35 shots, collected a shutout and was even better in his regular season debut than Tuukka Rask was on opening night. It’s such a good sign for the season that both B’s goalies are off to strong beginnings.
*David Krejci played nearly 16 minutes of ice time and looked solid after missing the opening night game with a lower body injury. He wasn’t a big factor on the score sheet, but his healthy return was really the big development in this one.
*One shot attempt, one hit and one takeaway along with a 2-for-6 performance in the face-off circle for Par Lindholm. People can talk all the livelong day about him doing the little things out on the ice, but you usually have to search for the little things when a guy isn’t doing much of anything impactful out on the ice. I’m not seeing much thus far to his game.
*I didn’t love the decision to scratch David Backes based on a pretty solid opening night from the 35-year-old, but I guess I somewhat understand from a perspective of keeping him fresh when he’s in the lineup. Somebody had to sit to make room for David Krejci, though, and I guess it came down to Backes.
*After being dominant on opening night, Charlie Coyle was a bit of a non-factor on Saturday night. If Coyle really wants to become an impact player for the Bruins then he needs to be more consistent with the game we saw against Dallas.
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