Mainville: Takeaways from Bruins’ 3-1 Win Over Stars

PHOTO CREDITS: (tsn.ca)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj

It may have taken a few days for it to happen, but the Boston Bruins finally opened up their 2021-2022 regular-season campaign on Saturday night and did so with a solid 3-1 win over the Dallas Stars, a team entering the game following a 3-2 overtime win over the New York Rangers earlier in the week. Boston’s Brad Marchand scored twice (penalty-shot and empty-net) while Jake DeBrusk scored the eventual game-winning goal paired with Jeremy Swayman’s 27-save performance, leading the Bruins to a 1-0-0 record to start the year. Here are three takeaways I had from the game for the B’s.

Calm, Cool, Jeremy Swayman

Only one year ago, the Bruins had an entirely different goaltending tandem in Tuukka Rask (unsigned) and Jaroslav Halak (signed with VAN) than what they have right now. After signing former Buffalo Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark to a four-year contract in free agency, it seemed like young goalie Jeremy Swayman would be the backup to begin the year. However, after a strong preseason, Swayman earned the starting role for the opening night contest against the Stars and not only did he step up to the occasion, but he made it look like he has been there for years.

Swayman did not face much action in the first period as the Bruins out-shot Dallas 17-4 in the opening frame. However, as the game went on, the Stars gained more momentum and Boston had to rely on Swayman to make stops to keep the game tied. The former Maine Black Bear allowed only one goal to Luke Glendening, a wrist shot from the high slot as the B’s defence was exhausted, caught on the ice after a long shift.

Aside from the one blunder on his scoresheet, Jeremy Swayman showed the poise and calmness of a veteran goaltender, leading the Bruins to a win. While he did allow a few large rebounds, he was able to recover quickly and make the additional saves when neccessary. MoneyPuck.com credited the Alaskan with a 1.6 Goals Saved Above Expected, a solid stat for opening night. Ullmark will likely get the start Wednesday against the Flyers (as he should), but the Bruins might be rolling with a 1A/1B scenario for these two goalies if Swayman continues this play.

Bruins Have… Bottom Six Threats?

After cries for change in the bottom-six for a long time, Don Sweeney and Co. finally got to work and signed a whole batch of new personell for the third and fourth forwards lines, signing the likes of Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, and Erik Haula in the free agency period to help shake things up and potentially spark a new fire under confidence-stricken Jake DeBrusk.

Well, in game number one of the new season, those additions may have done the trick. Jake DeBrusk scored the game-winning goal in the third period, but the play of DeBrusk-Haula-Foligno went beyond the one tally. Haula and DeBrusk’s speed down the ice brings a new threat to opposing teams while Foligno brings the physicality and forechecking that is commonly seen on a third line in today’s NHL. Per NaturalStatTrick, in 8:19 of even-strength time together, that line out-shot the Stars 4-1, had a CF% of 75% and an xGF% of 83.66% (best line on the team).

Of course, it is one game, but a goal for Jake DeBrusk is exactly what he needs for his confidence going forward and the clear chemistry between the three of these forwards might become a true advantage for Boston sooner rather than later.

Discipline Needs Work, but PK Got the Job Done

No game is perfect and for the Bruins, one critique is the amount of penalties they took. Dallas had six power-play opportunities throughout the game, a few of them were very avoidable by the Bruins (hand over puck, delay-of-game, too-many-men), but regardless, gave Dallas way too many chances to comeback in this game and even win it.

On the flip side of that, the Bruins penalty-kill was perfect, successfully killing off every penalty against them. Brandon Carlo (5:41), Derek Forbort (5:35), and Tomas Nosek (3:49) led in short-handed minutes, but Bruce Cassidy also tried out Charlie Coyle, Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and of course, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand a lot on the PK as well. Dallas had eight shots for on the six power-plays, which is a decent ratio for the Bruins to allow.

However, when Boston plays more dangerous units like the Oilers, Avalanche, or Lightning – excess penalties might pay crucial to winning and losing games. Even if the specialty teams are strong, the odds of scoring severely deminish when short-handed and I’m sure Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will convey that message going forward.

Rapid-Fire Additional Thoughts:

– Marchand (2G, 5 shots) looked to be midseason form, elite play-driver as expected.

– Hall-Coyle-Smith out-shot Dallas 14-3 and looked solid all night, no complaints even if held without a goal

– Fourth line didn’t do a whole lot (aside from a near goal that just missed net by Kuhlman), but they didn’t do anything negative either. Decent night there.

– Defence looked good as well. Reilly-Carlo pairing had large advantage in shots; Matt Grzelcyk had a few good point shots created by foot movements; McAvoy was solid as well.

Overall, the Boston Bruins had a full team effort and started off the year the way you’d hope. Everyone did their job and a W in the win column. Another small break coming up meaning the B’s are back in action Wednesday on the road against the Philadelphia Flyers.

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