(Photo Credit: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

By: Theo Lander | Follow me on Twitter @lander_theo

The Boston Bruins will look to defend home ice for the first time this season when they take on the Arizona Coyotes tonight at TD Garden.

The Bruins are fresh from a thrilling 5-2 victory over the Washington Capitals in D.C. Patrice Bergeron picked up right where he left off from his previous campaign by getting the Bruins on the board first. Czech stars David Pastrnak and David Krejci followed suit with high-output performances of their own, with Krejci scoring three points and Pastrnak tallying four. Taylor Hall and Hampus Lindholm also scored in the victory, while goaltender Linus Ullmark posted a .943 save percentage allowing just two goals on 35 shots. 

All in all, the season’s opening game was a telling win for the Bruins. The Capitals should be used as a litmus test for this Bruins team, as both teams have been rated similarly as playoff-cusp squads. So a dominant win over them is a good sign to open the season for Bruins fans.

The same could not be said for the Arizona Coyotes, however.

On the same night, the Yotes fell to the Penguins 6-2 in Pittsburgh. Ironically enough, both Arizona’s goals came from former Boston Bruin Nick Ritchie. Meanwhile, goaltender Karel Vejmelka allowed six goals on 53 (!!!) shots for a .887 save percentage. While the former fifth-round pick isn’t known for being a prolific puck-stopper, it should be noted that Vejmelka got left for dead by his teammates. Fifty-three shots in a single game is a tie for the twelfth-most by one team in NHL history (the Bruins hold the record for this with 73 SOG back in 1991). It’s even worse when you consider that most of the teams on that list earned their spot because those games were contested with extra overtime periods. 

The main takeaway from the Coyotes’ home opener should be this – they are historically bad. Arizona has fundamental issues with experience compared to its NHL peers. The Arizona Coyotes are third to last in total experience and the average age in the league. Coincidentally, the Bruins are the second-most experienced team, with 11,795 total games played on the roster. Their lineup from their opening game will tell you the story; the Coyotes lack skill across the board and are in for a rough season.

Arizona is a team that will be active participants in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes, which is a high-risk, high-reward play. Bedard is the type of player who can change the fortunes of a franchise, which is exactly what the Coyotes seem to be aiming for. I hate the concept of tanking and feel the need to point out that it often doesn’t pan out, but this team is so bad that it almost doesn’t matter what they do differently this season; they’ll end up at the bottom of the standings no matter what.

With Jake Debrusk out, the Bruins will be switching things up front. According to a report from Matt Porter, the Bruins were running these lines at practice ahead of tonight’s game. The “Czech line” of Pavel Zacha-Krejci-Pastrnak will supposedly start while Bergeron and Taylor Hall take a back seat on the second line, now being joined by Craig Smith in the absence of Debrusk.

The Bruins are a much better team than Arizona, even with the injuries to Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, and Debrusk. So in terms of what to expect from tonight’s game, the Bruins should win this game as long as they don’t play down to their opponent. Their experience and current momentum should be more than enough to take care of Arizona, which is a great way to open the action at TD Garden for this season.

Oh, Jeremy Swayman will also get his first start of the season tonight as well. This season is poised to be critical for his maturation in this league; keep an eye on how he performs against a team he and the Bruins should be able to trounce.