Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down: Injuries Piling Up, Pastrnak, Ullmark & More

Welcome to the first 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.

Five months after being eliminated by the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Boston Bruins began the 2022-23 season with a win over the Washington Capitals on Oct. 12, 5-2. They followed that up with a 6-3 win over the Arizona Coyotes at the TD Garden Saturday night in their home opener.

With the first week of the regular season in the books, let’s take a look at some of the good and some of the bad for the Black and Gold.

Plus One: David Pastrnak’s Blistering Start

It is well known that David Pastrnak begins the 2022-23 season without a contract extension in place. That puts into question what his future in Boston actually holds. It appears that the player and team want to make a long-term commitment and Pastrnak had quite an opening act on the season. 

David Pastrnak
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

In the season-opening win over the Capitals on Oct. 12 at Capital One Arena, Pastrnak had a goal and three assists. He scored the Bruins’ second goal of the game in the first period. He assisted on Patrice Bergeron’s first-period power play goal, Taylor Hall’s second-period goal, and David Krejci’s third-period goal that gave the Black and Gold some breathing room with a 4-2 lead. It seems like with every shift that Pastrnak takes, the value in his next deal keeps going up, no matter where it is.

Minus One: Mike Reilly Struggles in New System

On Oct. 9, Bruins general manager (GM) Don Sweeney placed three players on waivers, Mike Reilly, Nick Foligno, and Chris Wagner. All three cleared waivers the following day, with Wagner being sent to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) and Foligno and Reilly remaining in Boston. Despite the win over Washington, Reilly had two bad decisions that cost his team, but they were still able to get the win. Better situational decisions need to be made moving forward.

Related: Bruins Need Better Situational Decisions in Montgomery’s System

In the second period and the Bruins holding a commanding 3-0 lead, Reilly got caught too deep in the offensive zone, which led to a Capitals 2-on-1 that finished with Anthony Manta scoring. Five minutes later, Reilly again was caught too deep in the offensive end, which led to another 2-on-1 break that ended up in a Conor Sheary goal to cut the deficit to 3-2. Better situational decisions have to be made by not only Reilly, but the whole defensive group. Matt Grzelcyk is getting closer and closer to returning and Reilly could find himself on the outside looking in.

Plus Two: Ullmark’s Strong Opening Performace

Montgomery kept tight-lipped ahead of the Capitals game as to who was going to be starting in goal, before he decided on Linus Ullmark. Boston’s second-year netminder did not disappoint. He stopped 33 of the 35 shots he faced, including 13 in the third period alone with the Bruins clinging to a lead.

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

Ullmark’s first season in Boston went better than expected with him going 26-10-2 with 2.45 goals against average (GAA) and a .917 save percentage (SV%). The one area the Bruins were deemed strong in the preseason was in goal and Ullmark did not disappoint in his first game.

Minus Two: Jake DeBrusk Gets Injured

As if the Bruins needed another injury, Jake DeBrusk suffered an upper-body injury in the second period against the Capitals. He finished the period but did not come out for the third, and Friday was ruled out against Arizona creating another hole in the top six. Already missing Brad Marchand, DeBrusk’s injury is the last thing Montgomery needed.

Jake DeBrusk Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

DeBrusk had a good training camp and preseason, looking like a different player than the one that struggled the past couple of seasons and requested a trade. Not only is this a setback for DeBrusk, but also for the Bruins who are now left with less of a right wing depth than they had hoped to begin the season.

Plus Three: Stralman Signs One-Year Contract

Veteran defenseman Anton Stralman signed a professional tryout (PTO) in training camp for much-needed defensive depth with Charlie McAvoy recovering from off-season surgery. There is a need for another right-shot defenseman with just Brandon Carlo and Connor Clifton currently in the lineup. On Oct. 12, Stralman signed a one-year, $1 million contract.

Stralman did not play in the first two games as he is dealing with VISA issues, but this is a low-risk, high-reward move by Sweeney. It is even more of a big move after Carlo left Saturday’s game against Arizona with an upper-body injury when he was on the receiving end of a hit from Liam O’Brien. Carlo has a concussion history that can be concerning when his head snapped back following the hit.

Minus Three: Bruins Taking Too Many Penalties

If there is one concern through the first two games for Boston, it’s that they are taking too many penalties. Against the Capitals, there were whistled for four minor infractions and killed each opportunity Washington had, while they did a nice job of keeping Alex Ovechkin’s scoring changes to a minimum.

“Game management … I didn’t think we needed to take two or three of those. They are penalties. When stuff is kind of blatant, you give the refs the opportunity to make easy calls, and they made them.”

Jim Montgomery (from ‘Trent Frederic swaps in for injured Jake DeBrusk for Bruins,’ Boston Globe, Oct. 14, 2022)

Against Arizona, the Bruins were not as lucky. They took three second-period minor penalties, which let the Coyotes back in the game down 2-0. They scored on their first chance when Clayton Keller blasted a pass home from Travis Boyd to cut the deficit in half. Boston successfully killed off the other two penalties, both questionable calls to begin with, but regardless, they gave the referees an opportunity to make a call. Not only did Keller’s goal get the visitors back in the game, but it also turned the tide in the middle period and saw them outshoot the Black and Gold, 14-7.

Two wins in two games are the best way any team can start their season in the first week, but for the Bruins, it did not come without injuries and adversity by going to the penalty box too many times. A busy week with four games kicks off Monday night against the Florida Panthers, a team that Montgomery and his team know they will be fighting with all season long in the tough Atlantic Division. Down key bodies, this week should tell us early in the season how this team handles adversity.

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