Through the first seven games of the 2021-22 season, the Boston Bruins stand at 4-3. There have been some positive things that have transpired early in the season, while there have been some things that have not gone well or could be seen as a cause for concern going forward. With all that said, here are seven takeaways from the first two weeks of the Black and Gold’s season.
1. Bergeron Struggling Early in 2021-22
Brad Marchand has carried the Bruins’ offense early in the season with four goals and four assists, while David Pastrnak has been inconsistent. The real cause for concern is Patrice Bergeron, who has yet to score a goal, but does have three assists.
At 36 years old, the Bruins captain is in the final year of his contract, but will play out the season before making a decision about his career following the season. You have to wonder if age is catching up with Bergeron or is it the inconsistency of the first line through the first seven games that have played a factor in his struggling start. Like in seasons past, Boston will go as far as their top line takes them.
2. Power Less Power Play
The Bruins are one team that heavily relies on the success of their power play. Their first unit has undergone some changes in the last two offseasons with Torey Krug leaving in free agency for the St. Louis Blues in 2020 and David Krejci leaving this summer to return to his home country of the Czech Republic to continue his career. Are those two losses catching up with the Black and Gold?
Through seven games, Boston is 3-for-19 on the man advantage. Nineteen opportunities are not a great sample size, but regardless, just three goals raise a red flag. There is still a lot of talent on the first unit and the second unit has created several chances themselves. Charlie Coyle, Pastrnak, and Charlie McAvoy have the three power play goals. McAvoy’s was the biggest goal as it came in the third period to tie the game in an eventual Bruins 3-2 shootout win over the Florida Panthers on Oct. 30. With a four-day break that Boston had this week, the power play was more than likely addressed by coach Bruce Cassidy in practice.
3. Bruins Passing Up Scoring Opportunities
From the first line right down to the fourth line and to the defense, the Bruins don’t look like a very confident team offensively. In their recent two-game road trip against the Carolina Hurricanes and Panthers, they passed up scoring chances in the slot and below the dots to make an extra pass and some of their odd-man rushes are not even producing a shot on net. You can’t score if you don’t shoot.
When shots are getting to the net and rebounds are available, the Bruins, who have made opposing goaltenders and opponents pay in the past, are not burying their opportunities. With a team that looks like it’s lacking confidence with the puck and not scoring many goals, it might be time to throw everything to the net as sooner or later it has to go into the net.
4. Bruins Have Had a Tough Early Schedule
It might be hard to try and find another team that has had a tougher schedule than Boston has dealt with. Five of the first six opponents have winning records, with the Hurricanes and Panthers yet to lose a game in regulation. Florida’s only loss was a shootout loss at the TD Garden on Oct. 30, while Carolina is a perfect 9-0-0. Aside from their two losses to the aforementioned teams, the Bruins’ other loss was a 6-3 Oct. 20 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, who have a 5-2-1 record.
Boston is a perfect 3-0 on home ice, but the schedule moving forward is not going to be easy with games against the much-improved Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Edmonton Oilers on the schedule in the next week. You can’t clinch a playoff berth in the first month of the season, but you can bury yourself in the standings. Eight out of a possible 14 points in October considering the schedule is not too bad for Cassidy’s crew.
5. Defense Lacking Production
Through seven games, the Bruins have just two goals from their blueliners. A Derek Forbort harmless wrist shot from the point against the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 24 found the back of the net and McAvoy’s power play goal against the Panthers is the other goal.
The Bruins have dressed eight different defensemen in their first seven games and they have combined for 71 shots on the net. This season, the Bruins have made it a point to get more shots on the net from their defensemen, but a team lacking scoring and losing close games could use a little more goal-scoring from their blueliners.
6. Ullmark Has Outplayed Swayman
Linus Ullmark, the biggest surprising offseason free-agent signing made by general manager Don Sweeney, struggled in the preseason games he played in, but he has been a different goaltender in his four regular-season starts. Ullmark has won three of his four games, allowing just eight goals on 123 shots. He has a 2.23 goals-against average (GAA) with a .927 save percentage (SV%). In his four starts, he has made some big saves, which has allowed his teammates the opportunity to either get back in or stay in the game.
Jeremy Swayman, who had about as good of a 10-game stretch in the 2020-21 season as a young goalie could have, has struggled in his three appearances, going 1-2 with a 2.71 GAA and a .893 SV%. He allowed a career-high five goals in the Bruins 6-3 loss to the Flyers.
7. Coyle and DeBrusk off to Better Starts
Last season Coyle and Jake DeBrusk had disappointing seasons for two different reasons. Coyle was dealing with a knee injury that severely hampered his play as the third-line center. DeBrusk had an inconsistent season with just five goals and nine assists after three very good seasons prior with at least 16 goals a season. DeBrusk dealt with COVID-19 which sidelined him for two weeks, as well as being a healthy scratch and called out by Cassidy in his press conferences.
Coyle, who beat out Jack Studnicka in training camp to replace David Krejci as the second-line center, has played as well as anyone could have hoped in the first seven games. He has spent time both at wing and center and is second on the team with three goals. Following offseason knee surgery, he looks like a different player early in the season.
Speaking of looking like a different player early in the season, DeBrusk is off to a promising start early in the new season. He looks like he is playing with confidence, he’s taking the puck to the net more and shooting it whenever he has an opportunity. He has two goals, with both being game-winners. In the season opener against the Dallas Stars, he broke a 1-1 third period tie with his first goal of the season. On Oct. 24, the Bruins were holding a 3-1 second period lead over the Sharks when his wrist shot from the left circle found the back of the net. Boston needed that goal as a two-goal third period from San Jose accounted for the 4-3 final.
Bruins Have to Be Happy Where They’re At Through October
Seven games into the season, Cassidy and his team can’t be upset where they’re at with a 4-3 record. They have had a tough schedule, their power play and first line have been inconsistent and their defense has had its ups and down both offensively and defensively. The schedule picks up in November and December, but with four wins in their first seven games has to be seen as a positive early in the 2021-22 season from where they could be.
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.