Ten games into the 2022-23 season, the Boston Bruins are far exceeding expectations. Without Brad Marchand, Matt Grzelcyk, and Charlie McAvoy to begin the season as they recovered from offseason surgeries, the Bruins have more than held their head above water in the standings.
Grzelcyk was the first player to return earlier than expected, followed by Marchand on Oct. 27 and McAvoy has been practicing with the team and is on the current four-game road trip, although it’s not expected he’s going to play. Despite all the shuffling, through 10 games, the Black and Gold are off to an NHL-best 9-1-0 start. Here are five Bruins’ observations from the first 10 games.
Ullmark & Swayman Providing Strong Goaltending
Before the season started, I wrote an article about how the Bruins would need Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman to be on top of their game to help the Black and Gold survive the first two months in the standings. The starts were not split down the middle as everyone expected as Ullmark has taken command of the crease, but despite one hiccup by Swayman, the goaltending has been better than Boston would have hoped through the first 10 games.
Ullmark has been on top of his game since the season’s first puck drop. He has a 7-0-0 record in eight games with a 2.19 goals-against average (GAA) and a .932 save percentage (SV%). Swayman’s one hiccup was in a 7-5 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 18 when he allowed six goals in two periods before being lifted in favor of Ullmark for the third period. Swayman’s numbers are a little inflated because of that start, but he has a 3.45 GAA and an .878 SV%. His next performance after the Senators game was a 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 27 where he looked much sharper in making 28 saves.
“It’s unreal how comfortable I am standing behind the bench. We’re giving up odd-man rushes, there’s guys open on the back door and you’re not even worried because you just expect our goalies to make saves,” said Montgomery. “It’s a very comforting feeling as a coach behind the bench.”
In the Bruins’ 6-5 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 1, Ullmark gave up five goals in two periods before he was lifted for Swayman. In the third period, Swayman left the game with a lower-body injury after colliding with Patrice Bergeron, which forced Ullmark back into the net and he did not allow a goal as his teammates mounted a third-period rally for the victory. With Swayman expected to be sidelined, Keith Kinkaid will most likely be called up from the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Bruins Getting Secondary Scoring
If there has been a thorn in the side of the Bruins the last couple of seasons, it’s been the lack of secondary scoring. So far through 10 games this season, secondary scoring has not been an issue.
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You know what you are going to get from David Pastrnak, Marchand, Bergeron, and Taylor Hall, but it’s the other guys in the bottom six that are chipping in too. Newcomer A.J. Greer has three goals and five points, Charlie Coyle has four goals, and Nick Foligno, who scored just two goals last season, already has three. Trent Frederic and Craig Smith each have found the back of the net, along with five goals from defensemen.
How long secondary scoring continues remains to be seen and it would not surprise anyone at all if it tails off, but right now, the Bruins should take all they can get as they get are trending to getting healthier with each passing day with their forwards.
Bruins Winning Games Different Ways
The sign of a good team is that they can dig deep and win any type of game they’re in. First-year coach Jim Montgomery has seen his club win a game already in just about every way possible in the first 10 games.
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They have a shootout win over the Anaheim Ducks, overtime wins over the Penguins and Minnesota Wild, close games decided by a late empty-net goal, and multiple wins by three or more goals. In their first loss of the season to the Senators, they twice found themselves in a three-goal deficit in the game, only to battle back one to tie the game and cut the deficit to one goal in the third period. Boston has yet to be “blown out” of a game and is playing with a ton of confidence knowing right now that they are almost not out of any game.
Jake DeBrusk Looks Different Under a New Coach
It was announced last November that Jake DeBrusk had requested a trade from the Bruins through his agent. General manager (GM) Don Sweeney later confirmed the request but was in no hurry to make a move. Sweeney kept the 14th overall pick from the 2015 Entry Draft through last March’s trade deadline and even signed him to a two-year contract extension for $8 million. After Bruce Cassidy was fired and Montgomery was hired, DeBrusk rescinded his trade request and through nine games this season, DeBrusk looks like a different player.
DeBrusk was injured in the season-opening 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals and missed the home opener three nights later, but he quickly returned to the lineup after missing just one game and has been as good on the first line as he was in the second half of last season. He has three goals and eight points with a plus/minus of plus-6. You might say that his stats are not jumping off the screen at you, however, he is playing with pace, having strong zone entries with his speed, is tough on the forecheck, getting to the front of the at, backing-checking very well, and playing in all situations. This is the Jake DeBrusk that the Bruins’ have been looking for the past two-plus seasons.
David Pastrnak’s Price Keeps Going, Up and Up and Up and Up
The one story that is hanging over Sweeney and the Bruins is the future of Pastrnak. A free agent at the end of the season, the right wing is going to get paid and this time he will not be taking a hometown discount like his previous contract that carries an average annual value (AAV) of $6.67 million.
Sweeney and Pastrnak’s agent, J.P. Barry continue to be in contract negotiations, but no deal has been reached. Earlier I wrote an article on what a new contract would look like for the Bruins leading scorer this season and with each shift he takes and produces, his stock continues to rise in his favor. When all is said and done, it is expected that he will get something in the $10-$11.5 million range for an AAV and he is worth each dollar. The question now is, where does he get that, in Boston and somewhere else?
Ten games into the 2022-23 season, not even the most optimistic Bruins fan or management member could have envisioned a 9-1–0 start and sitting on top of the Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference, and NHL standings. With Grzelcyk and Marchand back in the lineup, it’s only a matter of time before McAvoy makes his season debut. The 10-game start is a surprise and it will be interesting to see how long they can keep this going until things start to even out.