The Boston Bruins passed their first challenge of the season last Thursday, defeating the Nashville Predators 4-3. Led by youngsters Charlie McAvoy, David Pastrnak, Anders Bjork and Jake DeBrusk, the Bruins have a lot to be excited about. They did, in fact, knock off the Campbell Bowl-winning Predators without Patrice Bergeron, David Backes, and Torey Krug.
However, the season is just getting started. Though the Bruins played a complete game against the Preds, they’re going to have to bring the same mindset and effort to each of the next 81 games. That is if they want to find themselves in the postseason come April.
On the other hand, a part of that recipe is taking things one night, one period, and one shift at a time. The Bruins’ next challenge is right around the corner as they are set to host the Colorado Avalanche in a Monday matinee matchup. They will then be following the Avs back home for a rematch on Wednesday at the Pepsi Center.
Colorado Avalanche Preview
The Avalanche finished the 2016-17 season at the bottom of the barrel, featuring a record of 22-56-4 while only accumulating 48 points. Two of those points came at the Bruins’ expense, though the two teams ultimately split their season series. The Avalanche trailed the next worst team, the Vancouver Canucks, by a whopping 21 points by the end of the 2016-17 season.
Nathan MacKinnon led the Avs production-wise last year, assisting on 37 goals and scoring 16 of his own. Matt Duchene followed with just 18 goals and 23 assists in 77 games, the worst performance of his NHL career. Trade rumors buzzed around the 26-year-old all summer as many thought he might be playing in a different city this season. The Bruins were even rumored to be connected to Duchene at one point or another.
Duchene told The Denver Post in August, “I don’t really have control of it and I’m just worried about being at the top of my game and kind of getting to where I was kind of the first half of last season, before everything kind of fell apart (for) everybody in Colorado.”
The Avalanche are an even younger team this season with just two players, Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau, over the age of 30. They started the season with a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers before falling to the New Jersey Devils 4-1 on Saturday.
So far, Tyson Barrie and Duchene lead the Avalanche on the stat sheet with a goal and an assist each. Other notable stats are an empty-net goal from Gabrielle Landeskog and an assist from MacKinnon to start the season.
Though how the Avs will perform this week is a mystery, especially this early in the season, one thing is for certain: they will bring a high-speed, high-velocity style of game. For once, the Bruins might benefit from this style of play. In years past, the Bruins have been defensively focused due to the system implemented by Claude Julien. This caused a decline offensively as they relied on the transition game more so than moving the puck with speedy goal scorers.
This season, Boston will fit very nicely into high-paced and likely high-scoring games. Look for them to light the lamp quite a few times this week against the Avalanche.
Krug to Return From Injury
Krug, who missed a chunk of the preseason as well as Boston’s home opener due to a fractured jaw, was running drills with the Bruins’ top power-play unit on Sunday, according to the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa.
Torey Krug is practicing on PP1 with Marchand, Pastrnak, Krejci, and Spooner. Looks like he'll be in.
— Fluto Shinzawa (@FlutoShinzawa) October 8, 2017
Krug will only bolster the lineup and will certainly help out in what is expected to be a fast-paced game. This means 25-year-old Matt Grzelcyk will not dress for the games against the Avalanche.
Boston’s key to success against the Avalanche will no doubt reside in the gloves and pads of their goaltenders. Whether or not Tuukka Rask gets both starts or splits the crease with Anton Khudobin, both netminders could use Krug’s help after a near-catastrophic collapse at the end of the game against the Predators.
No. 47 could very well also resemble a key to victory over the Avs, though McAvoy proved himself capable of holding the offensive torch along the blue line in the home opener. Krug will have an impact on both ends of the ice while hopefully starting yet another consistent season as a top-four defenseman in the NHL. Look for him to be on the ice when the B’s are in tight spots more often than in past years, as coach Bruce Cassidy may put a cap on 40-year-old Zdeno Chara’s minutes this season.
This is a great opportunity for the Bruins to scrape together four points, while anything less than two would result in some head scratching. Look for Boston to come up big this week against the Avalanche.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.