By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty
The post-Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug era got off to a pretty tumultuous start at first. But a goal from Jack Studnicka against the Philadelphia Flyers, the first five-on-five goal of the year, gave the Bruins the spark that they badly needed. Everything changed after that goal and ever since then, we’ve seen a pretty solid Bruins team, for the most part.
Getting David Pastrnak back certainly doesn’t hurt either, and he has played like the Pastrnak that we have all come to know over the years. He’s the third piece of that incredible top line. The top line has been dominant, with Brad Marchand even getting some early love for the Hart Trophy. They’re doing what we’ve come to expect from them, which is always good.
As has been the case for some time now, things can get dicey outside of the top line. Overall, I think what we’ve seen has worked out pretty well with a lot of different line combinations being tested.
Nick Ritchie’s hot start to the season, largely on the power play, has been a lovely sight to see. He has been fitting well with the pillar of the second line, David Krejci and Craig Smith as of late. The high-volume shooting Smith is the Smith that we have gotten. Compete level is never really in question when he is on the ice.
Jake DeBrusk returned to the lineup Wednesday night against the Rangers and was buzzing, flying all over the ice and shooting like a madman. He fit well alongside Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork for the first time this season.
I think Coyle had one of his better games as of late last night, and Bjork’s presence was pretty noticeable next to him and DeBrusk. Nothing crazy from Coyle, but he was solid. Bjork even got the monkey off his back and buried his first goal of the season.
Moving back and forth between the third and fourth lines lately hasn’t been a problem for Bjork. It is very apparent how much more he has been jumping off the page as of late. He has been very active on the forecheck and he has definitely been playing with more urgency.
There have been many moving parts at the bottom-nine forward winger positions. Luckily, it hasn’t been too problematic. The team has been settling in pretty nicely and they’re never quite out of a game.
The fourth line has been as advertised. Losing Joakim Nordstrom in the offseason freed up a spot on the left wing there. We’ve seen Trent Frederic, Anders Bjork, and Anton Blidh there and there’s honestly not much to hate.
Trent Frederic’s transition to the NHL hasn’t been stellar, but he’s pretty serviceable and doesn’t look too out of place to me. He’ll continue to figure things out more and learn as he goes.
Sean Kuraly has been his sparkplug, clutch self, and Chris Wagner has been Chris Wagner. He even beat out Artemi Panarin on Wednesday night and scored on Alexandar Georgiev. They are super solid, reliable fourth line players.
Jeremy Lauzon has been a sturdy new defensive partner for Charlie McAvoy so far. Particularly, against the Rangers, he made a couple of nice defensive plays against Pavel Buchnevich, including the one below. His assertiveness has coincided well with McAvoy’s electric start to the season.
McAvoy has placed himself in the early Norris Trophy discussion. It’s a very different season for him, and he’s thriving. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect offensively from McAvoy this season, but he has excelled in that area of his game like no other time in his young career so far. His 11 points are good for seventh amongst NHL defensemen.
Otherwise, he has been the reliable puck-moving defenseman that can take care of business in his own zone that we have come to know over the years. He has handled his new situation very well. The team is very noticeably better when he is on the ice.
Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo have had an up-and-down season. Grzelcyk has been good when he is healthy for the most part, but hasn’t had the great fortune of being healthy as much as he’d like to be. He will not play tonight in round two with the Rangers due to a lower-body injury.
Carlo has had some shaky moments at times this season, but overall hasn’t been too bad and has even scored a couple of pretty sweet goals. He has made it known that he wants to be a part of the offense and has picked his spots so far.
Connor Clifton has had a new role this year. Filling in on his off-side of the blue line is an adjustment for him that he has handled pretty gracefully, in my eyes. Cliffy Hockey hasn’t gone anywhere, he is still very much here, and even already picked up his first five-minute sit-down in the box for fighting.
I think Jakub Zboril and Kevan Miller have made a serviceable duo as the third defensive pair so far. After a solid start to the season, we saw a couple hiccups for Zboril against Philadelphia, but he has largely looked pretty composed on the ice. Having a guy as tough as Kevan Miller on your right doesn’t hurt in that regard.
Zboril lets the game come to him and handles the puck well. He could have easily come out with jitters this season and looked a bit frantic, but he really hasn’t. This is huge with such a different-looking defensive landscape for the Bruins.
Kevan Miller’s return to the lineup after a troublesome battle with injuries has been a solid one. He seems to be unbothered by his past injuries troubles and has been moving pretty well around the ice. All is well.
Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have been superb. Lost in the resurgence of the team and crazy comebacks is the goaltending to an extent, in my opinion. Not a complete omission of their overall impact in the crease, but sometimes overshadowed by other aspects of the game.
Rask is rocking a 6-1-1 record with a .906 save percentage and 2.31 goals-against average, while Halak boasts a 3-0-1 record with a .923 save percentage and a 1.72 goals-against average.
You can’t ask for much more than that. The two have been a great tandem for a while now. Most recently, Rask was fantastic against the Rangers on Wednesday night, making 33 saves on 35 shots with a few huge ones sticking out amongst the bunch. His goof at the end of that same game doesn’t change that.
It will be interesting to see how things go for the Bruins going forward, as there’s no guarantee they’ll come back in every game they find themselves behind in, even though it may seem like they will given how things have gone lately.
Playing from behind is not an ideal situation to find yourself in, but the Bruins have found ways to overcome deficits this season. This doesn’t take away from how good and deep this team is under such different circumstances from last season. The show goes on.