By: Ryan Duffy | Follow Me On Twitter @Rduffy26
After starting the 2022-23 NHL regular season undefeated through the first three games, the Boston Bruins fell to the Ottawa Senators 7-5 in a lackluster scoring affair. Both teams were far from perfect defensively, but the Bruins were particularly uncoordinated. Boston made multiple defensive errors in the neutral zone, where they made ill-advised pinches for the puck and left numerous odd-man rushes for the Senators. These errors were not only in the neutral zone but also in the defensive zone, as they left open men in front of the goal. While the loss was an uncharacteristic defensive effort by Boston, there are a few good notes to take from the loss to the Senators, including the depth scoring from Boston.
Through the first four games, the Bruins have received contributions throughout the lineup on the scoreboard. Boston has gotten 12 different goal scorers and 16 players with at least a point to start this year. As of Wednesday, Boston leads all NHL teams with 21 goals while also leading the NHL in average goals-per-game (5.3 GPG). Given the injuries Boston has sustained up front with Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, and Brandon Carlo out, the Bruins have needed this type of production from their depth to come through.
A few players who have been a pleasant surprise offensively to start the season for the Bruins include AJ Greer, Nick Foligno, and Connor Clifton. The three players have a combined 12 points and have given the Bruins a 200-foot effort. Ever since the preseason, AJ Greer has shown he can handle bottom-six minutes while being a factor in the offensive zone. Since game one of the regular season, he’s recorded three goals and two assists and has continued his strong play alongside Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic on the third line. With his deceptive shot and hard forecheck, the Bruins may have found a hidden gem in Greer so long as he stays consistent.
Last year was disappointing for Nick Foligno as he battled the entirety of the 2021-22 NHL season with nagging injuries and a lack of offensive production. The 34-year-old veteran was placed on waivers before the start of the season, but he seems to have handled this early adversity well. Foligno thus far has recorded two goals and an assist in four games, including his 500th NHL point this past weekend against the Arizona Coyotes. The gritty left winger is hoping to put last season in the rearview and continue his production on the bottom line.
Tuesday night’s matchup was ugly for Connor Clifton, but neither was it for many players in a Bruins uniform against Ottawa. In the absences of Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, Clifton has been the next man up on the right side, logging top-pairing minutes rotating between shifts alongside Hampus Lindholm and Derek Forbort. Clifton’s average time-on-ice has significantly increased to 22:15 per game, up from 16:04 last year. The 27-year-old defenseman has recorded four assists while averaging just over three hits and two blocked shots per game. He’s been getting involved on the rush offensively and has been a relatively steady d-man for Boston.
Part of the reason Boston has struggled down the stretch in previous regular seasons and postseasons is because of the lack of production from their depth players. If Boston can continue to get contributions from their under-the-radar personnel, the Bruins will be in good shape once their injured players return to the lineup.
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