( Above Photo Credit: NHL .com )
By: Billy Stramiello Follow Me On Twitter @WJStramiello
Opening night for the Bruins certainly did not feature the line-up that last year’s Bruins fans would have expected. So many “casuals” hope that they will wake up at the end of summer hockey hibernation to find their team stocked with off-season superstar acquisitions. On the opening night not only did B’s fans not find any presents like that under the tree but were also surprised to see some old favorites wrapped in the latest Louis Vuitton instead of their home-ice sweaters.
Probably the Bruins best player, Patrice Bergeron, is day-to-day but will likely return to the lineup on Monday. Torey Krug, offensive-minded defenseman, skated hard at practice and will also likely be back very soon. David Backes is out for up to a month with diverticulitis (really, who gets diverticulitis?). A starting veteran winger, defenseman, and center iceman, all out of the mix, and nobody to play but a bunch of kids and some old guys. That could easily spell disaster when facing the Western Conference champion Predators, presumably out for vengeance after losing in the final a few short months away.
(Above Photo Credit: NESN .com )
But it turned out alright – pretty good, in fact. Maybe our esteemed Harvard graduate of a GM is actually using his noodle after all. Sure it’s early, and kids are notorious for a lot of ups and downs. But the Bruins won last night because the players on the ice executed the game plan, utilized hockey IQ, and skated hard all night. So maybe Donny Sweeney and his scouts look at some qualities other than the obvious when drafting and rasterizing. The office has come under a lot of scrutinies lately because of the way they have handled some first rounders of late – most recently Malcolm Subban. The list of duds drafted and studs lost by the B’s is substantial, and many people were not pleased with the three-in-a-row in the 2015 draft that became Zboril, Senyshyn, and DeBrusk.
Looks to me like Sweeney is trying to draft players, that are coachable, work hard on and off the ice, go to the dirty areas, and have a decent hockey IQ – you know, Bruins players. Even our legitimate superstars of the glorious past are known for those qualities. Boston has never been a good spot for prima donnas.
So with the exception of about five minutes, opening night was a template for how we want things to go. Sure there were some scrambly moments, especially at the end, but for the most part, the Bruins did well in the defensive end. They did not chase the puck. They put sticks in lanes. They controlled their opponent’s sticks in the dirty areas. They did not get out of position and turn the puck over. Most importantly, they stayed between their checks and the net at all times (with good layers) and were thereby able to clear rebounds. When these things did not happen, the Predators scored. I was particularly impressed with the improved all-around play of Ryan Spooner. Skating hard is one thing, which he has always done, but skating smart is another, and hopefully, that will be the trend for these young B’s going forward.