By Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me On Twitter @adbblue
The Boston Bruins won their Centennial season opener Wednesday night, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1. There were many positive things to take out the two-goal victory, and the Bruin’s two young guns were undoubtedly a factor.
2019 first-round pick John Beecher and 2022 second-round pick Matt Poitras made their NHL regular season debuts, and they did not disappoint. Both of them were highly involved and impacted the game in many ways.
John Beecher centered the fourth line with Milan Lucic on his left side and Jakub Lauko on his right, and head coach Jim Montgomery decided to start them for the opening puck drop. Beecher was certainly noticeable, showcasing his speed yet again, which we saw on display during the preseason. There was one chance in the first period where Beecher’s quickness off the rush set a great chance for Lauko in front of the net, but Blackhawks goalie Arvid Söderblom turned it aside.
The former University of Michigan Wolverine had a total of 10:41 time on ice, including 1:14 on the penalty kill, and looked effective. He also finished the night winning six out of his 11 face-off attempts at 54.5%. But without a doubt, what Beecher did that stood out most was getting in his first career fight. It did come after he took a boarding penalty in the third period, but the young center answered for his hit from behind and had a solid scrap with Blackhawks forward Jason Dickinson. Beecher looked solid in his NHL debut and showed he has some toughness.
The Matt Poitras hype train was going full speed into opening night after the 19-year-old had an impressive preseason. The train stayed on the tracks as he showed up in his debut. Poitras centered the third line, playing with Trent Frederic on his left and Morgan Geekie on his right, and recorded his first career assist on Boston’s first goal. It was set up after a great feed from down low to Brandon Carlo at the point and tipped in by Frederic in front. But getting an assist was the least of Poitras’ performance. He had 14:50 of total time on ice, including 2:52 on the power-play, and set up some good looks playing on the second unit.
Furthermore, he was outstanding at the face-off dot, winning five out of his seven draws, finishing at 72.7%. There were also a few really good five-on-five chances generated by Poitras, including one where he had a great chance coming down the slot but was deflected wide. Perhaps the rookie center did the most impressive thing in the third period when he had a great chance down the left wing that was stopped and then hustled hard on the back check to help break up a Chicago three-on-two chance.
Overall, the two rookie centers absolutely looked like they belonged in their NHL debuts and played their roles well. After wide speculation the team could be in trouble at the center position, it seems like they might be in better shape than some first thought.