By: Max Weisman | Follow me on Twitter: @maweisman
After a long offseason of no hockey, the Boston Bruins returned Wednesday night to a raucous TD Garden crowd ready to celebrate their franchise’s 100th season in the NHL. Legends from past Bruins seasons were honored at the Garden and then watched as the current Bruins started the season strong, beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1.
So, following a good win and a few days off, what should fans look for the next time the Bruins take the ice on Saturday against the Nashville Predators?
Matthew Poitras and John Beecher made their NHL debuts Wednesday and showed why they made the team. Poitras recorded his first NHL point on a secondary assist on Trent Frederic’s goal, which, at the time, tied the game at one.
Poitras also recorded two shots on goal and centered the Bruins’ second power-play unit. Many raised questions about the Bruins’ depth at center coming into the season, and rightfully so. Still, Poitras showed potential at the center position, logging good ice time, factoring into a goal, and winning five of his seven faceoffs. Look for Poitras to build off his successful debut Saturday night against Nashville.
Meanwhile, Beecher centered the fourth line, which may have been the best line of the game. Playing between Jakub Lauko and returning Bruins’ legend and member of the Historic 100 Milan Lucic, Beecher emanated his linemate Lucic when he fought Blackhawks forward Jason Dickinson. Beecher likely won’t get into fights every night, but he could become a fan favorite if he can bring that level of physicality again.
Speaking of Lucic, he picked up right where he left off in Boston. Throwing on a Bruins sweater for the first time in eight years, Looch, as he’s affectionately known, recorded an assist on what would become David Pastrnak’s game-winning goal.
Typically, Lucic is on a different line than Pastrank, but they found themselves simultaneously on the ice. If Lucic can turn back the clock to his play level during his original stint with the Bruins, the Bruins would benefit greatly.
It is still unclear whether Linus Ullmark or Jeremy Swayman will be between the pipes on Saturday night, but if it is Swayman, the Bruins know they can rely on the fourth-year goalie. A member of the best goalie tandem in hockey, Swayman went 24-6-4 with a 2.27 goals allowed and a .920 save percentage last season. If coach Jim Montgomery gives Swayman the nod Saturday, he’ll look to start the season strong and build on his outstanding year.
Other things to look out for include the power play. The Bruins power play struggled on Wednesday, going 0-for-3, but the penalty kill killed off all three of Chicago’s power plays. Last season, the Bruins finished just outside the top ten in power play percentage, but they started to struggle more towards the end of the season. On the flip side, the penalty kill was the best in the league, at 87.3%, and the Bruins seemed to continue that trend Wednesday night.
Last season, the Bruins were 1-1 against the Predators, with a 5-0 win in Nashville and a 2-1 loss at home. Swayman started in the win, and Ullmark got the start in the loss.