After playing games every other day for 12 days, the Boston Bruins preseason schedule is done and now they turn towards the 82-game regular season, which begins on Oct. 16 at the TD Garden against the Dallas Stars. Coach Bruce Cassidy played his regular players in the Black and Gold’s three home games, while the road games were mostly for the players that will find themselves with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) at the beginning of the season.
With the six preseason games done, here are five players that stood out for the Bruins as they begin preparations for the 2021-22 season.
Going into training camp and in the six preseason games, one of the more closely watched battles was going to between Swayman and Linus Ullmark in goal. Last season, the 22-year-old Swayman took advantage of his opportunity to burst onto the scene and played about as well as a young goalie could in 10 games. In three preseason games this season, he carried over his strong play from last season, he is pushing the veteran Ullmark for the starting job and Cassidy knows that he has a decision to make.
“We know that Sway looks like how he left off last year, that he’s solid and the goals that are getting by him are good goals. He’s sealing well and challenging how he needs to. He looks sharp.”
Against the Washington Capitals on Sept. 26, he stopped 18 of 19 shots in 30 minutes of action. Against the Philadelphia Flyers four nights later, he turned back 16 of the 18 shots he faced in a 4-2 Bruins’ win. In his second start against the Flyers on Oct. 4, he was once again strong with 34 saves on 36 shots. All preseason long, Swayman was aggressive in net, cutting down angles, challenging shots, and making reaction saves. He finished the three games with a .932 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.99 goals-against average (GAA). Following his performances, it’s going to be difficult for Cassidy to not start him in the opener.
There were certainly plenty of different ways that this preseason could have gone for the 25-year-old after his difficult 2020-21 season, but the Bruins have to be pleased with what they got from the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft. Right from the first game on Sept. 26 against the Capitals, through the final game against the same Capitals at the TD Garden on Oct. 6, he looked more like the pre-coronavirus DeBrusk from 2018-19 and 2019-20 that was averaging 20 goals a season.
Numbers aside, he looked like a different player. He was playing hard, winning puck battles, buzzing around the offensive zone, and finding a good connection with Erik Haula and Nick Foligno, who figure to be his linemates on the third line. Cassidy also did everything he could to help DeBrusk gain confidence. He was on the second power play unit and in three shootouts, he went 3-for-3 on his attempts against the Capitals and New York Rangers. If he can carry this over to the regular season and have a bounce-back season, that will benefit Boston.
Signed as a free agent this offseason to add bottom-six depth, Haula had an impressive preseason for the Bruins. He centered DeBrusk and Jesper Froden in the first game, then was in the middle of DeBrusk and Foligno in the third and sixth games. Against the Flyers on Sept. 30, he made a nice saucer pass at the Philadelphia blueline to Foligno, who beat the defensemen to the puck and he made a perfect pass across the slot to Craig Smith for a power play goal. That goal does not happen without Haula’s pass.
Is Haula going to light up the scoresheet? No, but he does the little things that the Bruins have been missing from their bottom-six forwards. He’s very good on faceoffs, a good passer, and is always going to make the right decision. Of all of the free-agent signings this summer, this could end up being the one that works out well.
One of the other battles in training camp and in the preseason was who is going to take over for David Krejci as the second-line center. Charlie Coyle was supposed to get the first shot, but a nagging knee injury kept him sidelined until the final game, which opened the door for Studnicka. It’s safe to say Studnicka was given an opportunity as he played in four of the first five preseason games.
In the offseason, the 53rd overall pick in the 2017 draft put on more weight, and it appears that it has helped him. He is stronger on the puck and played well between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith. Does that mean he’s going to get the nod between the two wings? That remains to be seen. Haula could even slide his way up one line with Studnicka moving down between DeBrusk and Foligno. This has been Studnicka’s best training camp and preseason showing in his young career, which is encouraging for the Bruins.
It was only two preseason games, but it was two impressive performances for the Bruins’ 2021 first-round pick. In his first preseason game against the Capitals, he looked comfortable in his first taste of NHL action against veterans. In his second game two nights later against the Rangers he set up Studnicka for a goal.
You may also like
- 3 Bruins’ Takeaways From Win Over Sharks
- Bruins Daily Download – Recap, Stats, Injuries & News
- Bruins Mailbag: Coyle, Swayman, DeBrusk, Hall & More
- Bruins Need to Stop Playing Losing Hockey & Find Consistency
- Bruins Schedule Presents Interesting Challenges
After the Rangers game, the Bruins assigned Lysell to the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League (WHL) and that was the right call. The 18-year-old needs more time for his game to develop, but his time in the NHL might not be too far off. After a solid showing in early September at the Prospects Challenge, training camp, and two preseason games, the Bruins have to be excited about what the future holds for Lysell.
Overall It Was a Good Preseason
It would have been easy to have Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak as preseason game standouts, but you already know what you’re getting in the top line. After that is where the questions lie and some of the results have been better than Cassidy and the Black and Gold could have hoped for. Boston now gets a long break before the season-opener against the Stars to kick off the 82-game regular-season grind.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.