(Photo credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter: @zcarlone21

It has been a difficult stretch of highs and lows for the Boston Bruins so far during the 2021-22 season. The Bruins are heading into a date with the Ottawa Senators tonight after being outplayed by the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night. They lost 5-2, with the lone Bruins goals coming from forwards Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak. The Bruins couldn’t complete a full 60-minute effort and let Toronto’s star players expose Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark. The Bruins, 5-4-0, have the chance to bounce back tonight against a Senators team that sits 29th in the league standings. The puck drop for tonight’s home contest is scheduled for 7 pm EST.

Goaltending Battle

The play of Bruins goaltenders Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark through the first handful of games hasn’t been spectacular, but it also hasn’t been bad enough where the Bruins can’t hold the lead. Each goaltender has had their moments, with the latter having a bit more of a rocky start to the season. Swayman is the man between the pipes tonight, and Ottawa’s offense could catch him off guard if he’s not ready to go. Let’s hope that is not the case, however.

In four starts this season, Swayman has a 2-2-0 record. He has a GAA of 2.28 and a save percentage of .900. It’s still early, and he’s only had four starts compared to Ullmark’s five, but the numbers have to be better. Much of the blame can be put on the Bruins defense, but the 22-year-old goaltender needs to show flashes of excellence at the NHL level like he did last season. He played well in his previous start against the Detroit Red Wings last Thursday, making 14 saves on 15 shots en route to a 5-1 victory, but he’ll most likely face more shots tonight, meaning he’ll need to have a strong mindset right away.

Potential New Winger

While the Bruins’ top-six continues to carry most of the team’s offense, the bottom-six has struggled to produce offensively. It was a significant factor towards an unbalanced lineup last season, and it was one of the reasons the Bruins got knocked out in the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Inexcusably, injuries have played a minimal role in the lack of production for the bottom six. Nick Foligno was injured in the second game of the season but is eyeing a full-time return on Thursday night against the Edmonton Oilers.

Head coach Bruce Cassidy has tried placing multiple players in Foligno’s spot, but nothing has truly worked wonders. As of late, Karson Kuhlman and Curtis Lazar have taken turns playing on the third line with Jake DeBrusk and Erik Haula in Foligno’s spot, but they haven’t been able to produce efficiently. In nine games this season, Haula has just one assist, and DeBrusk has two goals. The next potential experiment for the third line right-winger spot before Nick Foligno returns, Jack Studnicka.

Forbort Continues to Struggle

The heading should probably say that the entire Bruins defense is struggling, but one newcomer has stuck out like a sore thumb and hasn’t been sound defensively in his first season with the Bruins. That newcomer is Derek Forbort, who’s gotten playing time with Connor Clifton on the third pairing and Charlie McAvoy on the first pairing. He isn’t panning out to solve the issues of a weaker left side of the Bruins defense like Cassidy and Bruins general manager Don Sweeney may have expected. There’s still time, but his play thus far is concerning, especially when he has two years left on his deal with the team following the end of the 2021-22 season.

Through nine games this season, the 29-year-old has a goal and two points to go along with a +/- of -2. If you’re playing most of the night with McAvoy, the negative +/- is an extreme let-down because of McAvoy’s ability to break the puck out to the offensive zone so well. Forbort hasn’t been good enough for the Bruins defensive pairs to gain any rhythm in the first nine games of the season, but Cassidy is giving him another chance tonight to prove himself. The Senators are averaging just 2.55 goals per game thus far this season.

Bruins Projected Lines

Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Hall – Coyle – Smith

DeBrusk – Haula – Studnicka

Frederic – Nosek – Lazar

Forbort – McAvoy

Grzelcyk – Carlo

Reilly – Clifton