This is the first installment of Bruins Weekly, which will include a look back at the week that was for the Boston Bruins, highlights any players or trends that stood out, a look ahead to the upcoming week, and more.
With that said, it’s time to take a look back at the last week and the three-game road trip the Bruins had to begin the shortened 56-game season with two games against the New Jersey Devils and one against the New York Islanders.
Even Strength Struggles
Through the first nine periods of the regular season, the Bruins have yet to score a goal at 5-on-5, which has left coach Bruce Cassidy scrambling to find some offense. It was expected that the Bruins would struggle scoring goals early in the season without David Pastrnak (who is out until February recovering from hip surgery in September), but nobody expected this much of a struggle.
Cassidy has moved his top nine around trying to find offense and a combination that will click. Craig Smith has played right wing on all three lines, Jake DeBrusk was moved from the second line left-wing to right-wing on the first line and Anders Bjork has been bouncing back and forth between the first and third lines.
Jack Studnicka began the season on the right-wing next to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the first line in Pastrnak’s place, but he was ineffective in the opening game and was a scratch the next game. Even second and third-line centers David Krejci and Charlie Coyle got shifts on the right-wing on the first line. Nothing has worked yet.
Marchand Provides Only Offense
With Pastrnak out, the Bruins need offense from somewhere and Marchand is that guy early on. It’s scary to think where the Bruins would be just three games into the season without their second-leading scorer from last season.
Marchand has had a hand in all three goals against the Devils with one goal and two assists. For good measure, he scored the game-winning goal in the first game in the final round of the shootout for a 3-2 win that gave the Bruins their first shootout win since Feb. 20, 2019, when they beat the Vegas Golden Knights.
McAvoy’s Strong Start to the Season
When Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara left in free agency in the offseason, it was expected that Charlie McAvoy would take on the role as the new leader of the defense. Through the first three games, it appears that the 23-year-old is up to the challenge.
McAvoy has averaged 26:08 a night in the first three games, nearly three minutes more than he averaged in 2019-20. Part of the increased time is because he has played on the power play and killed penalties more than he did a year ago. Defensively he has been the most physical defenseman, while offensively he has yet to record a point, but he has been the most aggressive blueliner in joining the rush. Don’t expect either of those to change any time soon.
Special Teams Shine
The strength of the Bruins in the first three games was their power play and penalty killing. Against the Devils, the Bruins got two power-play goals from Marchand and Nick Ritchie in the first game and a shorthanded goal two days later in a 2-1 overtime loss from Bergeron.
The Bruins killed all eight Devils power-play opportunities in both games, while they also were perfect against the Islanders in killing all five of their chances. A key to the season was going to be the Bruins’ special teams and so far through three games, they’re a big reason why they are 1-1-1.
Carlo Reaches Milestone
Defenseman Brandon Carlo reached the first milestone of the season for the Bruins in Monday’s 1-0 loss to the Islanders. The 24-year-old played in his 300th career regular-season game as he begins his fifth year with Boston.
Two Key Injuries
The Bruins were not able to avoid injuries in the first three games of the season. Ondrej Kase suffered an upper-body injury in the second period of Saturday’s game when he was hit the face by the Devils’ Miles Wood. Kase, who headed to the locker room following the contact, has a concussion history from his time with the Anaheim Ducks. He was ruled out of Monday’s game against the Islanders.
Monday night, defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was involved with a board battle with the Islanders Jordan Eberle and ended up leaving the game with an upper-body injury. Should Grzelcyk have to miss time, Cassidy has John Moore, Connor Clifton, and rookie Urho Vaakanainen as possible lineup replacements.
The Bruins have yet to officially announce what the injury is, but Grzelcyk was clearly in pain. Losing him for any amount of time would be a big blow since he has taken on the responsibilities left behind by Krug on the top power-play unit and as Carlo’s partner. It is too early in the season for the Bruins defensive depth to be tested.
The Week Ahead
The Bruins return home after their season-opening road trip for their first homestead at the TD Garden without fans in attendance. Here is their schedule for the next week and all games will begin at 7 P.M.
- Thursday: vs. Philadelphia Flyers
- Saturday: vs. Philadelphia Flyers
- Tuesday: vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.