Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down: Struggling Prospects, Marchand & 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.

Raise your hand if you saw the Boston Bruins beginning the 2022-23 season 8-1-0 after nine games with the injuries they had to begin the season. Didn’t think so. I’m not sure anyone saw this start coming, but here we are with the calendar about to turn to November and everything that has needed to go right has gone right. Let’s dive into the last seven days for the Black and Gold.

Plus One: Brad Marchand Makes Return Earlier Than Expected

Over the last couple of weeks, signs have been pointing to Brad Marchand making his season debut earlier than the expected timeline of around American Thanksgiving in late November. The veteran left wing has been practicing with his teammates as he recovers from double hip surgery and on Oct. 27, coach Jim Montgomery inserted him into the lineup against the Detroit Red Wings.

Brad Marchand Boston Bruins
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Marchand made an immediate impact with two goals and handed out an assist in just under 18 minutes of ice time in all situations while landing four shots on the net. Coming back before his original target date, but with the performance he had, it looked like he was a player that had not missed a game all season. With the Bruins on the road for three more games, it appears that Marchand will be a regular in the lineup.

“Sixty-three is going to be a full-time player now. And then 73 (McAvoy), he’s tracking ahead, but not like 63.”

Jim Montgomery (from ‘It’s early, but the Bruins sure look good,’ Boston Globe, Oct. 30, 2022)

After beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0 on the road on Oct. 28, the road trip continues against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.

Minus One: Bruins Trading Studnicka to Canucks is Another Sweeney Failure

During the Bruins’ win over the Red Wings, news broke during the third period that the Black and Gold sent center prospect Jack Studnicka to the Vancouver Canucks for a pair of prospects. In return, Boston gets goalie Michael DiPietro and defensemen Jonathan Myrenberg, a fifth-round pick in the 2021 Entry Draft.

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Since being drafted 53rd overall in the 2017 Draft, Studnicka has been seen as the center in waiting for when veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci move on, however, things just never worked out in Boston for various reasons. He was played a lot out of his natural position of center on the right wing by former coach Bruce Cassidy and he was not the same player as when he was at center. This season, Montgomery played him in one game on Oct. 20 against the Anaheim Ducks and it was a disaster. He turned the puck over at the Ducks’ blueline which led to a 2-on-1 and the game-tying goal, before taking a third-period penalty in the Black and Gold’s 2-1 shootout victory. It was a fitting end to his career in Boston as he was one struggling prospects looking to crack the roster.

Related: Bruins Made Right Call Trading Studnicka After Failed Development

The Bruins could have done the easy thing like they did with Nick Foligno, Mike Reilly, and Chris Wagner and placed him on waivers, but it was highly unlikely that he would have made it through waivers without getting claimed. Instead, general manager (GM) Don Sweeney traded him for two prospects in return. This is just another bad look for the current Bruins management of another case of lack of prospect development under their watch. A fresh start with Vancouver could be good for Studnicka, who should get plenty of opportunities to play with the Canucks. As far as Sweeney goes, he better hope that some of the other prospects people are high on develop better than Studnicka.

Plus Two: Jeremy Swayman’s Bounce-Back Performace

On Oct. 16, Jeremy Swayman allowed six goals in the Bruins’ 7-5 loss to the Ottawa Senators, but it was hardly his fault. Sloppy play in the defensive zone, turnovers leading to Grade A scoring opportunities, and lack of backchecking from the forwards were the key breakdowns. Montgomery gave the former University of Maine standout nine days off and he bounced back with a performance that everyone is used to.

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

Swayman made 28 saves in the Bruins’ 5-1 win over the Red Wings, but it was more how he looked than anything. He was tracking the puck well, moving side-to-side well, and not leaving many rebounds. The only goal he gave up was late in the second period when a Craig Smith turnover and failure to clear the puck out of the defensive zone led to an Adam Erne shot from the point finding its way through a screen to cut the deficit to 2-1. His teammates gave him more breathing room early in the third period with three goals 99 seconds apart to break the game open.

Minus Two: David Krejci Injured Against Red Wings

After leaving following the 2020-21 season to return to his home country of Czechia to continue his career, Krejci returned on a one-year contract, but many questioned if he could adjust back to the NHL game. Through the first seven games, he has made the adjustment without a problem, but against the Red Wings, he suffered an injury that is going to force him out of the lineup.

In the second period, he took a high hit from Detroit’s Michael Rasmussen, and did not return after being diagnosed with an upper-body injury. He missed the Bruins game the following night against Columbus and his status going forward is unknown. Rasmussen had a hearing on Oct. 28 with the NHL Department of Player Safety and was given a two-game suspension. Against the Blue Jackets, Pavel Zacha filled in as the second-line center in Krejci’s place. Losing Krejci for any amount of time would be a tough blow for the Black and Gold.

Plus Three: Bruins Remain Perfect at TD Garden

The Bruins were given a gift from the NHL with six of their first eight games at the friendly confines of the TD Garden and they sure took advantage. After beating the Ducks and then the Minnesota Wild in overtime on Oct.22, they capped off the homestand with wins over the then-undefeated Dallas Stars on Oct. 25 and the Red Wings.

Related: 3 Bruins’ Takeaways From Dominating 4-0 Win Over Blue Jackets

Beginning the season shorthanded with injuries, seven or eight out of a possible 12 points at home would have been a success, but banking all 12 points is not something a lot of people saw coming. Even more important is the way they are winning games. They are winning close games and even by multiple goals and are getting contributions from up and down their lineup from players like Foligno and Charlie Coyle. Sooner or later they will come back to earth, but the more points they can bank early in the season, the better they will be in the long run.

Minus Three: Jakub Zboril Struggles on Defense Continue

In the preseason, Jakub Zboril was one of the better Bruins defensemen, but things have not gone as well in the regular season for the 13th overall pick of the 2015 Draft and the Bruins’ top defensive prospect in the system. Against the Red Wings, he had as tough of a night as he’s had in his previous six outings.

Jakub Zboril Boston Bruins
Jakub Zboril, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In just under 15 minutes of time on ice, he had multiple defensive zone turnovers with his biggest miscue happening in the first period when he attempted to clear the puck from behind the net and it led to a partial breakaway that Swayman was able to make a save on. The following night against the Blue Jackets, he was a healthy scratch by Montgomery and going forward, he’s going to need to play better if he’s going to be a regular in the lineup when the defense is healthy.

Nine games into the season, there is not much that is not going Boston’s way. This week they get a true test with three road games in five nights with Krejci’s availability not known. Regardless, games against three Eastern Conference contenders, the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs will be a good early-season test for Montgomery’s team.

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