After five long months of hibernation, hockey is back in Boston. All of the moves and chatter that took place in a rollercoaster offseason on Causeway Street is (mostly) over.
With just over two weeks left before the October 8th opener against the Winnipeg Jets, preseason play got underway for the Bruins on Sunday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center. It was an all-around solid performance as the Black and Gold dispatched the New Jersey Devils 2-0 in Providence.
The Bruins followed that performance up with another good performance in front of their home fans at the TD Garden. A 2-1 victory against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night saw the introduction of three-on-three overtime to the fray this season. Bruins Nation saw it last a grand total of 12 seconds before second-year pro David Pastrnak scored his second goal of the night in overtime.
Through the first two games, Boston’s defense, considered by some to be their Achilles heel, has been airtight allowing just one goal in over 120 minutes of action. Regardless of who they’re playing against, it’s tough to argue with the fact that what was supposed to be the weakest area of the squad has not shown any chinks in their armor.
Here are some other takeaways from the first two performances for the Bruins
Battle For The Backup
The battle for the right to back up franchise netminder Tuukka Rask is alive and well.
Malcolm Subban, Jeremy Smith, Zane McIntyre and Jonas Gustavsson all saw around 30 minutes of action in the first two games. The goalies have faced a combined 57 shots and have stonewalled opponents allowing just one goal while sporting a .982 save percentage.
Gustavsson started against the Devils and made 18 saves, at times bailing out the Bruins during a sloppy start on Sunday. The former backup in Detroit made an immediate first impression with several key stops in the first period to repel the Devils attack. He’s making the most of his opportunity after being invited to camp on a professional tryout.
Subban boosted his stock as well, stopping all 17 shots he faced against the Caps on Tuesday. The former first-round pick in 2012 had a few questions being asked of him and his technical abilities during the start of training camp but responded well to the challenge by the strong performances of Gustavsson and Smith two nights prior.
It will be interesting to see going forward which of these four netminders can stand out among the pack and be top dog by camp’s end.
Last season, the question entering training camp was if Pastrnak would make the roster. This year, it’s a question of where he will play.
A strong stretch run in February and March endeared the 19-year-old to fans, his coaches and the front office. Now, it seems he will be given the opportunity, at least to start the season, to be the linemate of fellow Czech David Krejci.
On that Pastrnak OT goal- great pass by Krejci to wheelhouse- but look at way Pasta opens hips, transfers weight, gets all of it. Beauty.
— Kirk Luedeke (@kluedeke29) September 23, 2015
Anyone who dug deep and found a live stream of Tuesday night’s Bruins/Capitals clash saw Pastrnak score both goals for Boston, including an overtime winner just 12 seconds into the extra frame. Krejci fed him a slick pass that “Pasta” one-timed by Philip Grubauer in the Caps goal.
Could it be a sign of things to come? It sure looks promising given what Pastrnak brings to Krejci’s line; a speedy winger with raw and improving finishing abilities. Add in Matt Beleskey on the left side and it could be a deadly trio to reckon with. It appears the six-foot Pastrnak is riding the wave of last season’s performance (27 points in 46 games) to the top, which should excite the Black and Gold base.
Few people thought the signing of Matt Irwin was a significant one. After all, the 27-year-old was presumably signed for depth after inking a one-year, $800,000 contract in July.
His two-goal performance against the Devils on Sunday was a promising sign that the Bruins could have found themselves a diamond in a rough free agent class. Irwin scored his first goal on a smart pinch from the blue line to find a deflected pass from Ryan Spooner sitting in the slot for him to pot past Keith Kinkaid.
Irwin’s second goal was a bullet from the blue line, showcasing the offensive instincts that contributed to a strong finish last season with six goals and 13 points in 30 games after the All-Star Break.
I think Matt Irwin just made the opening night roster for the Bruins.
— Andy Merritt (@A_Merritt) September 23, 2015
With the recent news of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg missing eight weeks due to surgery on a herniated disk in his back, the UMass alum may have a more prominent role on the blue line than some predicted. If such is the case, Irwin made a very good first impression on those who may not know the defenseman who has spent the last three seasons refining his craft in San Jose.
Five more games remain on the Bruins preseason slate before the Jets fly in on October 8th. It bears watching to see what else happens with the club as their preparations for the 2015-16 season kick into high gear.
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW