The Boston Bruins took to the ice on Sept. 24, 2022 for their first game since their season ended in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes in May. Though the result was a loss, there was still a lot to like in how the Bruins played. Admittedly, the game only saw a few of both teams’ regular contributors play, but it was still an encouraging result nonetheless.
The Bruins outshot the Flyers 32 to 29, held the faceoff advantage by winning 57% of the draws, had fewer penalty minutes, more hits, one fewer blocked shots and six fewer giveaways. In general, it was a game that saw some bad luck for the Bruins affect the way the night went, but the preseason isn’t about the result as much as it’s about the process; with that in mind, the Bruins should be pretty happy about their first dose of game action in four months.
Despite losing, three players stood out for their performances and deserve recognition for their respective games.
Jakub Zboril Shines in Return From ACL Injury
The player who arguably stood out the most for the Bruins in their first preseason game of the 2022-23 season was Jakub Zboril. The 25-year-old returned to action after tearing his ACL last season and picked up exactly where he left off prior to the injury.
Zboril led both teams in ice time by a solid margin with 25:05 in the game – the next highest was Kevin Connauton of the Flyers who played 22:57, and the next closest Bruins’ player, Dan Renouf, logged 18:53. It was clear from the get-go that the Bruins were going to let Zboril shake off any rust he may have from his extended time off, but that didn’t appear to be an issue throughout the night.
Included in that 25:05 of ice time was 5:16 of power play time and 3:06 of short-handed minutes; the Bruins were using Zboril early, often and in all situations. This makes a lot of sense given how he played, but it could also be indicative of how they want to use him early in the season. With Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk both out to start the regular season, Zboril will likely be the first in line to step up into a top-four role and help the team move forward rather than wade water early in the season.
This is good news for the Bruins and Zboril as the first round pick used on the Czech-born defender looks like it could finally be paying off. It’s certainly premature to assume that Zboril will suddenly blossom into a top player for the Bruins given such a small sample size, but it’s still encouraging to see him take a step forward last season and then take an even bigger step forward in the first preseason game, despite coming back from a pretty significant injury.
Bruins Goalies Stand Out in Loss
Both Bruins goaltenders looked very solid throughout the night. Keith Kinkaid made 14 saves on 15 shots, including going seven for seven at even strength and seven for eight on the power play. Danny Keyser would make 13 saves on 14 shots, including nine out of 10 at even strength and two for two both on the power play and shorthanded.
The tandem combined for a save-percentage of .931 but found themselves on the losing end of the game; again, the result doesn’t matter as much as the process and both goalies should be happy about their performances.
The Bruins goalie situation is pretty solidified with both Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark expected to split starts for the entirety of the 2022-23 regular season. If one goalie happens to pull away, it would make sense to run with the hot hand, but both goalies found success at different points of the season last year and earned their playing time.
Injuries are an ever-present threat, however, and the Bruins will need to be ready in case one strikes a goalie this coming season. Fortunately, both Keyser and Kinkaid appeared to be in midseason form last night and if they can continue on that trajectory, an extended stay as a backup on the Bruins’ main club wouldn’t be the end of the world. Of course, this is a small sample size of just one preseason game against AHL players and prospects, so it’s way too soon to assume that this is how they’ll perform against NHL-level competition.
Still, this is all we have to go off of right now, and both performances were worth the recognition.
Jakub Lauko Finds the Back of the Net
We’ve spoken about a defender and both goaltenders already, so it seems fitting that the last player mentioned is a forward. Jakub Lauko, the Bruins’ third round pick from the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, would score the Bruins’ lone goal of the evening. Notably, though, he could have easily score one or two more had the puck luck gone in the Bruins’ favor last night.
The 22-year-old made some noise as a prospect early on for the Bruins and his speed and skill were on full display during his first season with the Providence Bruins. He’d score five goals and 19 points in just 23 games in Providence during the 2020-21 season, but would regress to just three goals and 16 points in 54 games a season ago. Though the results haven’t necessarily followed quite yet in the AHL, Lauko has given the Bruins many reasons to believe in his potential. He’d especially do so last night and was able to show out against the Flyers in a big way
While it’s still important to distinguish the fact that this game came against mostly AHL players and prospects, Lauko performed well against his peers and showed that he should definitely be in consideration for a roster spot when all is said and done. Even if he doesn’t start the year with the big club, his name should be near the top of the list should a call-up be necessary – and let’s be honest, it will be necessary time-and-time again this season if the past half-decade is any indication.