By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
The month of October is finished and that means we are already one month through the 2018-19 NHL regular season. For most teams, the first month into a new season is a good milestone to see where your team is at along the standings and expectations that were in place before the first puck was dropped on the season. Many teams across the National Hockey League have either impressed or disappointed in the first ten games or so.
In the first instalment of the Bruins Monthly Recap, we will dive into the surprises, disappointments, and positives of the month of October including the best performances, worst games, injury report, and finally, a prediction of the month to follow. Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
The Good Games
The Boston Bruins even with the poor outings, had their fair share of solid performances in the opening month of the new hockey season. Throughout the first twelve games that the Bruins played in the month of October, they finished with an overall record of 7-3-2, good for third in the Atlantic division with sixteen points. The Bruins are tied with the Maple Leafs and only one point behind the division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
October 13th/18 – vs Detroit Red Wings
All you have to do to see the best game for the Bruins this season is take a look at the schedule of games on BostonBruins.com. The Bruins came out of the Saturday game against the Red Wings with an 8-2 win and it was really an incredible performance on all ends of the game.
The win was the fourth straight win for the Boston club since losing their opening game to Washington. With goals by David Pastrnak (2), Charlie McAvoy, and Jake DeBrusk all in the first two periods, the Bruins were looking great offensively. McAvoy’s and DeBrusk’s tally was their first goal of the season respectively, a good sign for them both early on in the year.
Even after an early third-period goal by Detroit, the Bruins rallied right back with another by Pastrnak, one by Bjork, DeBrusk’s second of the game, and a goal by Sean Kuraly in the dying seconds just to put the nail in the coffin. Tuukka Rask stopped thirty-two of thirty-four shots that Detroit fired at him and the Bruins come out with the solid win.
October 11th/18 – vs Edmonton Oilers
The October 11th meeting between the Oilers and the Bruins was the first of two meetings that the teams from opposite conferences would play this season. This specific game took place in the TD Garden and the Bruins walked out of the Garden with a 4-1 victory over the Oilers.
The first period was the main reason for Boston’s win, scoring three of the four goals all consecutively in the first frame. The goals in the first twenty minutes came after an early goal from superstar forward Connor McDavid that may have surprised the defence and the forwards on the Boston club. From that point on, the whole team was able to shut down the McDavid line and led them to scoring opportunities.
Jaroslav Halak made twenty-five saves in the contest, his second win of the 2018-19 campaign. While it may not have been a perfect offensive outing for the B’s, it was a good showing regarding the defensive side of the puck.
October 25th/18 – vs Philadelphia Flyers
Within the twelve October games, the Bruins were involved in three shutouts total – two of which were wins. Against the Flyers on Thursday, October 25th, the Bruins were able to keep them off of the score-sheet for the entire sixty minutes of game time. Jaroslav Halak made all twenty-six saves and the Bruins looked pretty good in general.
One of the biggest reasons as to why this game was so important to win is because the Bruins were recently coming off of a sub-par Canadian road trip that saw losses against the Flames in Calgary, Oilers in Edmonton, and Canucks in Vancouver. The Bruins did, however, pick up a much-needed win over the Senators to conclude the away swing, but they wanted to keep that winning momentum when they returned to Boston against Philly.
Zdeno Chara tallied two goals in that game, becoming the second-oldest defenseman to accomplish the feat, behind only legendary Maple Leafs defender, Tim Horton. Chara passed Red Wings’ great Nicklas Lidstrom on that same list. At 41-years-old, Zdeno can still play with the best of them and he proves that night in and night out.
Jake DeBrusk was the only other Bruin to score a goal in the contest, making it one of the rare times that Boston has scored, but the first line failed to tally a single point all game. While that may seem like a topic of concern, it is actually the opposite. We know that the line of Pastrnak, Marchand, and Bergeron will be able to consistently score goals and put up numbers, but it has been the depth early on that has struggled for this Boston team. Seeing the depth score some goals and the defence/goaltender do their job as well, it made for a good performance for the Bruins.
The Not-So-Good Games
Sometimes it is a tad bit hard to remember the tough nights that your favourite hockey team went through, but ultimately it is in those games where they had a poor effort that you learn the most about the team wearing the Spoked-B sweater.
October 3rd/18 – at Washington Capitals
Let’s just get it over with and out-of-the-way. Throughout the offseason, Boston was predicted to have a fairly decent season. Would it match or surpass the successes from the 2017-18 season? Maybe not. But this team had its hopes and it’s excitements – as does every team in the National Hockey League.
In the first game though, Boston did not play hockey. They did, but many would say that they did not. With a lack of offensive chances, poor defence, and poor goaltending, the Bruins would get crushed by a final score of 7-0. The hockey world was shocked, for the most part, considering how dominant Boston was for a large stretch of the ’17’/’18 regular season and making their way to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
Tuukka Rask was pulled after allowing five goals on nineteen shots, but newcomer goalie, Jaroslav Halak didn’t do too much better, allowing another two goals on eighteen shots. The Bruins offence only mustered up twenty-five shots on Braden Holtby and the Capitals would be able to capitalize on a bad Bruins penalty-kill, scoring four of their seven goals on the man-advantage.
October 27th/18 – vs Montreal Canadiens
Earlier, I mentioned that the Bruins have only been a part of three shutouts – two of them being victories. The other one, a tough loss to longtime bitter rivals, the Montreal Canadiens on the 27th of October. The team played a poor game, losing at home for the first time all season long thus far, something the team would rather have not experience against the Canadiens.
Boston played a mediocre game for what could be said the majority of the outing, but two quick goals by Montreal in the first period made it a tough for the Bruins to build any momentum. Tuukka Rask arguably made a poor judgement on the first goal that led to the 1-0 Montreal lead, but the Bruins again failed to help Rask out on the offensive and defensive side of the puck.
The only positive out of this game was the play of Ryan Donato. He had a goal taken away due to an offside while entering the zone, but he continued to shoot the puck at will and generate solid scoring chances in the process. Even with the goal taken away, Donato wanted another. Thankfully, the Bruins rebounded with a win over the Hurricanes in the final game of October and hopefully erased the loss to Montreal for the time being.
It is no secret that the Bruins have a lot of talent throughout their lineup, but so far this season, not all of those “star” players have produced at a level expected. Not only will I talk about the players who did surprisingly well, but the players who did surprisingly poor during the opening twelve games of the season.
Good: First Line (63-37-88) – 22G – 28A – 50P
Yes, I knew the Bergeron line was going to dominate if they remained together and dominate is an understatement. However, the number of points and level of production that this line actually was able to come away with is something to be impressed about. Patrice Bergeron led the way with nineteen points (7 goals, 12 assists), followed by David Pastrnak’s sixteen points (11 goals, 5 assists), and Brad Marchand’s fifteen points (4 goals, 11 assists). Marchand scored two goals in the final game of the month, against Carolina, a sign that more goals could come from the Nova Scotia native.
Bad: Noel Acciari – 0 Points, -6 Rating
During the 2017-18 regular season, one of Boston’s best weapons was the fourth line of Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly, and Tim Schaller (signed with Vancouver in the offseason). This season, however, the fourth line has not met those same standards, especially Noel Acciari.
Acciari has not looked too great while on the ice in any game, which could be the reason for him averaging the least amount of minutes per game (aside from Urho Vaakanainen), with only 11:01 of average TOI. With nine penalty minutes, only seven hits, a -6 rating, and zero points, Acciari has not been the greatest of players for the Bruins whatsoever. He needs to get his production levels higher if he wants a consistent position on this team.
Good: Brandon Carlo – 2 Assists, +3 Rating, 20:57 TOI
Commonly associated as the best defenceman on the Bruins blueline so far, Brandon Carlo has easily been the most consistent blueliner when it comes to playing the position correctly, aside from 3-on-3 overtime. Carlo has bailed out the goaltender on numerous occasions with clutch stick saves in not only one game. Most recently, Carlo made this save against the Hurricanes on October 30th.
With all of the injuries to the blueline so far this season, the Bruins have needed and will continue to need Carlo to play at his very best if the Bruins want to remain contenders in the division.
Bad: Tuukka Rask – 3-3-0 – .902 SV% – 3.15 GAA
A very touchy subject in Boston nowadays, Tuukka Rask often feels hate and criticism from some Bruins fans, even when he may not entirely deserve it. Although lately, the Finnish goaltender has struggled early on to stay consistent in between the pipes. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has swapped him and backup goalie, Jaroslav Halak for each game, but it has been Halak who has had the better results.
After losing to Montreal 3-0, Rask was given the bench job while Halak started against Carolina, where he made 42 saves in a 3-2 win. Rask has not been absolutely horrendous, but he has not lived up to what he most definitely can be. The belief is that Halak will get the starts for as long as he can keep getting wins because right now, Tuukka does not seem himself in the cage. If Boston wants another year similar to last year in terms of success, then they need Rask to be on his game and then some considering the threats all around the league for goal scoring.
Good: David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Lauzon
Bad: Depth, Ryan Donato
Injury Report (As of October 31st)
D Kevan Miller – Hand – IR – to be re-evaluated in about three weeks
D Charlie McAvoy – Post-Concussion Syndrome (rumoured) – IR
F David Backes – Illness – Day-to-day
D Urho Vaakanainen – Concussion – IR
D Matt Grzelcyk – Upper-Body Injury – Day-to-day
The Bruins have had a rough go with the injuries so far this season, especially on the blueline. Torey Krug just recently returned from an injury that forced him to miss the first eleven games of the season, but he seems to be back in old-Krug form after putting up an assist in the win over Carolina.
The Boston Bruins have thirteen games currently on the schedule for the month of November 2018 and here are the following teams they will be playing against.
Saturday, Nov. 3rd – at Nashville Predators
Monday, Nov, 5th – vs Dallas Stars
Thursday, Nov. 8th – vs Vancouver Canucks
Saturday, Nov. 10th – vs Toronto Maple Leafs
Sunday, Nov. 11th – vs Vegas Golden Knights
Wednesday, Nov. 14th – at Colorado Avalanche
Friday, Nov. 16th – at Dallas Stars
Saturday, Nov. 17th – at Arizona Coyotes
Wednesday, Nov. 21st – at Detroit Red Wings
Friday, Nov. 23rd – vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Saturday, Nov. 24th – at Montreal Canadiens
Monday, Nov. 26th – at Toronto Maple Leafs
Thursday, Nov. 29th – vs New York Islanders
A tough schedule is on its way for the Boston Bruins but some good games will be played as well. Can the Bruins solve the problems that came about in the first month or will they get worse? The hockey season is still very young and it is going to be fun every step of the way.