Moving forward throughout the 2018-19 NHL season, I’ll be taking a look back at the week that was for the Boston Bruins while looking ahead to the week that awaits us. We are now a week and a half into the season, and the identity of teams is starting to take shape.
The Bruins? They aren’t so big and bad anymore, but instead speedy and skilled. Quite frankly, this team is more exciting than those groups and packs an elite punch offensively.
I’d make the argument that Boston has the best line in the NHL at the moment, and that their young depth throughout the lineup gives them a truly elite offensive group. All the talk is about Toronto, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Washington and Tampa Bay, but you can firmly put the Bruins in that category. The first 10 days of this NHL season has proven as much.
Bruins Week That Was
The B’s kicked off last week with their home opener, hosting the Ottawa Senators without Erik Karlsson. I thought this was the Bruins’ worst effort of the week by a wide margin, but they still found a way to take home two points via a 6-3 victory. I think that says a lot about this Boston team. They played far from their best and Ottawa was sharp all afternoon, but Boston’s immense skill level was too much for Ottawa to handle and Tuukka Rask made just enough saves to keep his team in it.
Thursday saw Edmonton come to town, which had the potential to be a shootout. Connor McDavid burned Zdeno Chara early in the contest, but Big Z took control after that and Boston erupted for three quick goals en route to a 4-1 home win. Saturday? It was Pasta’s day as the dynamic winger scored three times in Boston’s dominating 8-2 victory over Detroit.
It was a 3-0 week for the B’s, one where they looked completely dominant in two of their games. Outside of the McDavid line on Thursday, no one was able to create consistent offense against Boston in their final 120 minutes of hockey. Boston’s defense played the system perfectly and shut down some skilled players. Outside of his goal, I thought McDavid was handled well by Chara and Charlie McAvoy. That’s not easy to do.
We know Boston’s top line is elite. The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio creates offense better than just about any other in the NHL. After that, however, many people had questions. Jake DeBrusk was snakebitten in the first few games of the year, but finally found the back of the net Saturday. David Krejci is playing better hockey, and I think it is only a matter of time until Ryan Donato gets things going. Anders Bjork has played well too, and I firmly believe he is the best goal scoring option among Boston’s young forward group.
The most impressive development from this week? Both Rask and Jaroslav Halak played very well and they seem to be pushing each other. If those two are giving the Bruins solid goaltending on a nightly basis, this team can repeat its 100-point performance from a season ago. The defensive depth, without Krug, has caught me off guard as well.
Bruins Week Ahead
Things get a little difficult for the Bruins now because it’s time to hit the road. The B’s are off until Wednesday night when they’ll take on Calgary for the first time this season. After that, it’s a quick trip north to Edmonton on Thursday night for the Oilers home opener before a date with the Canucks in Vancouver on Saturday. The annual Western Canadian road trip almost never happens this early, and hasn’t taken place in October since the Fall of 2008.
On paper, the Bruins easily should be able to take two out of three games here, but don’t be so sure. Calgary is better than they were a season ago, and I think they are close to a lock for postseason play this April. That won’t be an easy matchup for the Bruins, because Calgary has a great defensive depth and more scoring options than any team Boston has seen so far sans Washington.
Edmonton will not be the pushover they were a week ago. The Oilers will finally be home, and have a victory under their belt. In their home opener, finally back in their building for the first time since Sept. 30, they’ll be fired up to get a hungry fanbase on their side. Vancouver, meanwhile, has played well so far and is a lot more skilled than a season ago.
My prediction for the week? Boston gets victories in Calgary and Vancouver while dropping a close overtime decision in Edmonton. Overall, that’s a great western swing for Boston. Five out of six points is a huge win for Bruce Cassidy’s squad.
The realistic goal should be four points. The Bruins will be the better team in each of their three matchups, and while it won’t be easy, you expect them to come out with more wins than losses. We’ll see if the early season travel and the time off throws this team off of its rhythm.