The Boston Bruins have started the season with a 2-1-1 record. Throughout their first four games, they’ve scored seven goals – three at even strength, and allowed nine goals against. To add perspective to those numbers, the league-average in goals-for this season has been 13 and the league-average in goals against has also been 13. In this regard, the Bruins are playing well defensively but failing to match the same level of offensive output as the rest of the league.
To be fair to the Bruins, the season is still young. Just four games into the season is way too early to claim that the sky is falling and that the Bruins are no longer Stanley Cup contenders, especially when considering the fact that they’ve earned five out of a possible eight points so far this season despite their scoring woes.
While David Pastrnak still continues to practice in a red no-contact jersey, the Bruins offense does seem to be closer to getting some help at the forward position sooner than later. Until then, though, the Bruins will have to figure out what they have and work on scoring without one player.
Should Pastrnak struggle or find himself injured again down the stretch, the team has to be prepared to compete without him. While the team is hoping Pastrnak’s return will be a permanent one, they have to prepare for everything.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy has continuously tinkered with his forward lines, almost to a fault, with Thursday’s contest against the Philadelphia Flyers being the first game to seemingly pay dividends. Still, the Bruins were held scoreless through two periods and they’ll have to prove that their third period surge that included four goals (three of which coming at even strength) was the norm and not just an anomaly.
Part of the scoring struggles could come down to players being unable to form chemistry alongside each other, but that can’t be the whole reason.
As mentioned, Cassidy has been unafraid to move forwards around and adjust the lineup both pregame and in-game to try and create a spark. While it may benefit the team to let things play out at times, it’s interesting that Cassidy hasn’t really tried to shake up his defense in a way that could lead to more offense for his team.
Grzelcyk and McAvoy Should Get Minutes Together
With Matt Grzelcyk coming out of the lineup Saturday due to injury, the Bruins should seriously consider pairing him with Charlie McAvoy once he’s healthy and able to return to the lineup. With Grzelcyk’s injury being deemed day-to-day, that shouldn’t be too far in the future.
It’s been said in the past, but Grzelcyk and McAvoy have chemistry and have shined together both at Boston University and even in brief minutes together in the NHL. Giving them a longer look together in the NHL could help open up the offense for the towards and allow them to produce more in the process.
As it stands, the Bruins seem to be wasting Grzelcyk’s offensive ability by playing him alongside Brandon Carlo. While Carlo excels on the defense side of the game, his offense pales in comparison and giving him more offensive-zone starts than defensive-zone starts is a waste of his talent. Unfortunately, the same can be said about Grzelcyk who should be allowed to blossom offensively while still playing important defensive minutes in his own zone alongside McAvoy on the team’s top-pairing.
Bruins Have Options on Defense
With McAvoy and Grzelcyk on the team’s top-pairing, that would leave Jeremy Lauzon to skate alongside Carlo with the team’s third-pairing consisting of Jakub Zboril and Kevan Miller. Depending on how well Connor Clifton plays in his season-debut Saturday, however, he could factor into the team’s plans and could find himself slotting in for either of the two third-pairing defenders.
Zboril has played well to start the season and it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll be taken out of the lineup unless that changes. While Miller has looked good and proved many critics wrong, keeping him fresh and healthy may be the best plan of action for the Bruins. With Clifton more than capable of playing good, solid minutes at the NHL level, the team can comfortably deploy him as a platoon with Miller for the latter’s health.
This doesn’t even take into consideration Urho Vaakanainen who will certainly factor into the defensive equation at some point this season. The 2017 first-round selection has only played in seven NHL games in his young career, but he’s a prime candidate to grow his resume this season should injuries strike.
At the end of the day, Cassidy has proven that his priority this season is winning. With a shortened 56-game season factoring into the equation, the Bruins don’t have a lot of room for error. Fortunately, their early struggles haven’t cost them any significant ground on the competition thus far as they’ve pushed through their growing pains.
It seems inevitable that Grzelcyk will end up alongside McAvoy at some point in his career, it’ll just come down to when the team decides to pull the trigger and give the duo an extended look.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for seven years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.