Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down: Goaltending Shines, Krejci, Zboril & More

Welcome to the latest edition of the Boston Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down for the 2022-23 season. This will be a weekly column released on Mondays chronicling the highs and lows of the previous seven days.

There were just two games in the last seven days on the schedule for the Boston Bruins, but they were two games that helped them tie an NHL record. Two wins on TD Garden ice helped the Black and Gold tie record for most consecutive wins at home to begin a season with 11. In this edition of Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down, the goaltending continues to shine, the front office hires a law firm because of their mistake, one veteran player is heating up, and more.

Plus One: Jeremey Swayman Returns Against Blackhawks

Two and a half weeks after suffering a lower-body injury against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 1, Jeremy Swayman returned to practice on Nov. 16 and the lineup against the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 19. He was injured in the third period of the Bruins’ 6-5 overtime win against the Penguins when Patrice Bergeron collided with him while killing a power play, injuring his knee.

Jeremy Swayman Boston Bruins
Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In a 6-1 win, Swayman stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced as his teammates put together one of their better 60-minute efforts of the season. The former University of Maine standout was grateful to be back so quickly from an injury that looked like it was going to be a long-term issue when he left the ice in Pittsburgh.

Following the game, Swayman said, “Unbelievable, it was a long two weeks, you know working every day for a common goal and that was to get back on the ice for a game…to get this win at home was a special one, so I’m really happy to be back.”

In Swayman’s place, veteran Keith Kinkaid was called up from the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) and won his one start against the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 12. He stopped 30 shots, including 21 through the first two periods, to keep his team in the game and rally for a 3-1 victory.

Minus One: Bruins Hire Law Firm to Investigate Front Office Mistake

The signing of Mitchell Miller on Nov. 4 was one decision that the front office would like to have back. Team President Cam Neely spoke to the media on Nov. 7, one day after they cut ties with Miller, and said that he is going to do an investigation into the process that went into signing Miller. On Nov. 15, Boston announced that they hired the law firm to review their player-vetting process. Boston hired former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch of the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Related: 4 Bruins Playing Above Their Contract Value

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The Bruins brought this situation upon themselves with their lack of outreach to the victim, Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, who is Black and has developmental disabilities that Miller repeatedly bullied, and their lack of awareness during the whole process and the brushback they got from their fanbase and the entire hockey world. Whatever the review determines, this is fully on the front office from top to bottom and the fact that Neely or general manager (GM) Don Sweeney has yet to take responsibility is actually not so surprising.

Plus Two: Ullmark Continues Home Dominance

The Bruins’ start to the season at home can be attributed to many different things, but Linus Ullmark has done more than his share to backbone the impressive start on TD Garden ice. In Boston’s 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 17, Ullmark stopped 22 of the 23 shots he faced to help Boston tie a franchise record for most consecutive wins at home to start a season with 10. It was not an easy night for Ullmark who faced several point-blank chances early in the game as turnovers and a lack of getting back in the defensive end almost cost the Bruins.

Linus Ullmark Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In 12 home games this season, Ullmark is 8-0-0 with a 1.60 goals-against average (GAA) and a .947 save percentage (SV%). He has allowed just 13 goals on 243 shots. When he was signed to a four-year, $20 million contract in the summer of 2021, it raised a lot of eyebrows, but so far in his first two seasons in Boston, he’s earning every bit of that $5 million average annual value (AAV).

Minus Two: Bruins Penalty Kill Showing Leaks

All season, the Bruins penalty kill has been at the top of the league, until recently when the San Jose Sharks passed them for the top spot. In two games last week, they gave up a power play goal to the Flyers and the Blackhawks, the only two goals they gave up, and that is something to keep an eye on with their upcoming schedule.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Bruins’ Dominating 6-1 Win Over Blackhawks

Against the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 13, they took six minor penalties and allowed two goals, then they were whistled for four against both Chicago and Philadelphia. Staying out of the penalty box going forward is going to be key if the Bruins are hoping to continue their strong start to the season.

Plus Three: David Krejci Getting Hot

What a difference a week makes. In this space last week, I wrote about David Krejci not looking like the same player he was before being injured against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 27. Three days off last week did the veteran center some good and he looked like a different player against Philadelphia and Chicago.

David Krejci Boston Bruins
David Krejci, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Against the Flyers, Krejci scored two of the four Boston goals in the third period and after the visitors cut a 2-0 deficit in half. He scored on a mini breakaway after a nice individual effort from Pavel Zacha to win a puck battle, then he sealed the game with a power play goal off a pass from Nick Foligno. Two nights later, late in the second period and the Black and Gold holding a 3-1 lead, he one-timed a pass from A.J. Greer for an insurmountable 4-1 lead.

Krejci has been a different player the last two games, skating better, making good decisions, and creating more scoring chances for himself and his teammates. It’s a welcomed sight with a demanding schedule ahead.

Minus Three: Jakub Zboril Remains Out of the Lineup

Jakub Zboril missed both games last week with an illness and Anton Stralman subbed in for the 13th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft. Zboril has been up and down in his first 12 games this season, but while Stralman has done a nice job in his place the last two games, Boston could use Zboril back in the lineup.

Zboril offers coach Jim Montgomery flexibility by being able to play both the left and right as a left shot. Stralman did that in Zboril’s place as a right-shot, he played on his offside with Brandon Carlo, and did a good job, but Zboril returning to the lineup gives the Bruins another penalty killer and a defenseman that has been playing with confidence.

The Bruins will begin a tough part of their schedule between Monday (Nov. 21) and the New Year against some of the top teams in the league. It starts this week with two games in Florida against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, before a home game the day after Thanksgiving against the Carolina Hurricanes in a rematch of last season’s first-round playoff matchup won by Carolina in seven games. The next month will be a good test for the NHL’s top team entering the week.

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