By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter @zcarlone21
Although it’s still quite early into the Boston Bruins 2021-22 regular season, it seems like a good time to assess how the Bruins offseason acquisitions have done so far. The Bruins have had multiple extended breaks this season due to poor scheduling, and this week is no different. After a hard-nosed 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday night, the Bruins don’t play again until Saturday night, six days later, against the Philadelphia Flyers. That being said, it’s an ideal time to look at the roster’s work thus far.
Without overstating the obvious, the Bruins first line has been spectacular along with defenseman Charlie McAvoy. They seem to be some of the best players in the league at each of their respective positions. The Bruins have also gotten contributions from players who are surprising, specifically Charlie Coyle among them, and they have others who are struggling. Beyond the lineup of players who have been with the team since last season, the players who have just joined the team over the summer are doing a fine job of adapting to the black and gold. It’s still early into the season, but let’s take a look into how the Bruins newcomers are holding up just 13 games into the season.
The most important piece of the Bruins offseason signings has been goaltender Linus Ullmark, who scored himself a four-year, $5 million AAV contract from Bruins general manager Don Sweeney during the summer. He evidently was expected to replace free agent goaltender Tuukka Rask for a short-term period, but he actually has been viewed as the number two goaltender by Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. He hasn’t been bad, but goaltender Jeremy Swayman has been slightly better, according to Cassidy.
Through 13 games, Ullmark has started 6 of them, holding a 3-3-0 record. It’s his first season with an entirely new system in front of him, so there were expectations heading into the season that he would definitely need to adjust after spending the past six seasons with the Buffalo Sabres. No. 35 has a 3.01 GAA and a .912 save percentage, both good for the third-worst numbers of his career. I’d expect those statistics to improve over the season, as the Bruins have played inconsistently through 13 games so far. Ullmark was signed to be the number one guy until a potential return of Rask, and he needs to play well in the net in order for the signing to pay off.
The Buffalo, NY native hasn’t had much playing time with the Bruins due to an injury he suffered in the second game of the season, but he did return recently and thus far has five games under his belt with the team. The Bruins signed Foligno knowing he could come in as a leader not only for the bottom-six forward group but also for the entire team, and he hasn’t disappointed. The numbers don’t tell the whole story, and that’s the beautiful thing about the sport, but Foligno has yet to make his most lasting impact on Boston’s hockey team.
Through five games, Foligno has one assist. He’s earned the trust of Bruce Cassidy and currently plays on the second line with Taylor Hall and Charlie Coyle. That’s not where most expected him to be at this time during the season, but he’s done it. He’s also being used as a net-front presence on the first power-play unit. Foligno isn’t going to produce outstanding numbers as he nears the tail-end of his career, but he’s impressed many both on and off the ice as an inspirational Bruin, and he’s being rewarded. Expect him to cash in on some big-time plays throughout the season.
Forbort has started the season all over the map for the Bruins. Cassidy has played the 29-year-old defenseman with both Charlie McAvoy and Connor Clifton for portions of the start, and he hasn’t been able to gain any rhythm with his partners until late. His defensive play was in shambles, to say the least, but he’s actually been better the last week or so. Through 13 games, Forbort has two goals and one assist.
Forbort, like the rest of the team, needs to gain more consistency throughout the rest of the season. It’s early, and that’s the message I’m emphasizing as the team goes through a roller coaster of a start, but consistency needs to kick in at some point for a talented team like the black and gold. Forbort was brought in to alleviate the weakness of the left side. Compared to the right, it still needs some work, but Forbort’s arrival wasn’t expected to solve the problems. His play with McAvoy as of late has been impressive, and hopefully, it’ll only improve.
The 5’11” center has had a quiet showing for the Bruins bottom-six. Haula brings a lot of speed and skill to the Bruins forward group, and it hasn’t translated to the scoresheet as some may have expected. Through 13 games, Haula has one goal and two points to go along with a +/- of -5. I think a big reason Haula hasn’t been able to succeed so far in his tenure with the Bruins has been because of the constant changes on his wings, but those should be solved during the next few games. Haula has played the start of the season with Jake DeBrusk on his left and has had a variety of stints with each of the player’s Jack Studnicka, Karson Kuhlman, Nick Foligno, and Craig Smith on his right.
Haula has the skill set to snap out of a slow start. He scored his first goal of the season in Saturday’s win against the New Jersey Devils, giving him some much-needed confidence. Whenever you join a new team, adjustments to a new system and culture are always challenging to navigate, and I think that’s the case Haula is in right now. I wouldn’t expect his low point total to continue much further, however, as Jake DeBrusk is playing well in his role alongside Haula so far.
The former Vegas Golden Knight has been impressive so far this season. Nosek has captured a full-time role in the bottom six, mainly sticking on the fourth line where he feels most comfortable. Through 13 games, the undrafted center has one goal and two assists. Like Haula and even Foligno, these players were brought in by Sweeney not to produce at a ridiculous pace. That would be expecting too much from them. Instead, they’re serving as stable support options for a rather talent-heavy Bruins top-six.
In my eyes, the signing of Nosek is paying off. The Bruins let former fourth-line center Sean Kuraly walk in the offseason, and Nosek has come in and replaced him well. Gaining an energetic momentum for the fourth-liners is difficult with the recent injury to Trent Frederic, but a constant forecheck and persistent pressure during every shift is all Cassidy needs from them. Production on the scoresheet is hard to come by, but Nosek has the chance to be one of the more productive centers on the team’s fourth line since former Bruin Greg Campbell was with the club.