When the Boston Bruins began the 2022-23 season at Capital One Arena against the Washington Capitals on Oct. 12, there were questions surrounding what the season might look like. There were limited moves made in the offseason by general manager (GM) Don Sweeney because they were a cap team and the veteran core was brought back for one more run at a Stanley Cup championship.
Also dealing with injuries, it could have been easy to see the Bruins buried in the Eastern Conference standings and in the Atlantic Division. Instead, they sit on top of the NHL standings at the quarter mark of the season. Here are five takeaways from the surprising start that they have had this season.
Ullmark & Lindholm Playing at Vezina and Norris Trophy Pace
Yes, we are only at the quarter mark of the season, but there are two Bruins making a case to be in the conversation for awards at the end of the season. Goaltender Linus Ullmark is one of, if not the best, goalies so far this season. On defense, Hampus Lindholm is making a strong case to be in the conversation for the Norris Trophy.
Ullmark is 13-1-0 this season with a 1.96 goals against average (GAA) and a .935 save percentage (SV%). At home on the TD Garden ice, he is 8-0-0 with a 1.60 GAA and a .947 SV%. The Bruins set the NHL record for consecutive home wins to begin a season at 12 and Ullmark was a big reason why.
Charlie McAvoy missed the beginning of the season recovering from off-season surgery and Lindholm took over the role as the leader of the defense without skipping a beat. He has excelled in all situations, he has four goals, 14 assists, and a plus/minus of plus-20. He might not be the first name mentioned when discussions for the Norris Trophy come up, but he should be in the conversation at the end of the year if he’s able to play at his current level.
Latest News & Highlights
Two other names that could be mentioned through the first quarter of the season for awards are Patrice Bergeron for the Selke Trophy and Jim Montgomery for Coach of the Year. Again, it’s just a quarter away through the 2022-23 season, but not many people had Boston penciled in to be 18-3-0 at this point.
Montgomery’s System Working Wonders for Defenseman
When the Bruins fired Bruce Cassidy, they hired Montgomery, and with him came a new system. The system allows the freedom for the defense to be more offensive and some like Lindholm and McAvoy are taking advantage of it.
Lindholm was an underrated offensive defenseman with the Anaheim Ducks, but everyone is taking notice in the Eastern Conference with his start to the season. McAvoy, who missed the first 12 games of the season recovering from offseason surgery is already averaging over a point a game in nine games with two goals and eight assists.
Other defensemen are thriving like Connor Clifton who is playing the best hockey in a Bruins uniform, Brandon Carlo has been joining the offensive rush and Matt Grzelcyk is also a different player this season than he was in the past couple of seasons. The more offense the Black and Gold get from the defense, the better they’re going to be.
Bruins Benefitting From Balance Scoring
While the Bruins are getting offense from their defensemen, their forwards have been producing and they have been getting production from all four lines. Fourteen forwards have suited up for the Bruins and all of them have at least one goal.
David Pastrnak leads the team with 14 goals, six on the power play after his latest against the Hurricanes on Nov. 25, and Bergeron has nine. David Krejci has eight in his return to the Bruins and the list doesn’t stop there. Tomas Nosek and Nick Foligno, both struggled mightily in 2021-22 each already has two goals. Not only are they scoring 5-on-5, but they are getting production from both power play units.
Entering the season, there were questions as to just how deep their offensive lines were going to be. Through 21 games, they certainly are spreading around the production. Depth scoring has been an issue in the past, but it’s a strong point early in the first quarter of the season.
Bruins Continue to Win Despite Injuries
It was tough enough that the Bruins began the season minus McAvoy, Grzelcyk, and Marchand who were all recovering from offseason surgeries, but the injury bug bit them early and often. Despite losing key pieces early in the season for a different amount of time, Boston was able to continue to rack up wins.
First Krejci went down with an upper-body injury against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 27 and missed three games. Zacha filled in as the second-line center in his absence as the Bruins won all three games. On Nov. 1, Jeremy Swayman went down with a lower-body injury after colliding with Bergeron on Nov. 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins and missed two and a half weeks. In his place, Keith Kinkaid was called up from the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) and he won his own start in Swayman’s absence against the Buffalo Sabres.
The other biggest injury the Bruins suffered was Derek Forbort on defense as the left-shot was having a strong start to the season before breaking the middle finger on his right hand against the Penguins, which required surgery. He was a big part of the penalty kill, while also sacrificing his body to block shots and playing his physical style as more of a stay-at-home blue liner. He is getting closer to returning to the lineup.
On Nov. 25, Ullmark was injured in the Bruins’ overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes and was listed as day-to-day. Now Boston’s goaltending will be tested again.
Bruins’ Have Been Dominate Third Period Team
One of the big reasons the Bruins are currently the top team in the NHL is because of their third-period dominance. It’s an impressive dominance at that.
They have outscored their opponents, 32-12, in the final 20 minutes of the game, which has led to several come-from-behind wins as well as overtime and shootout wins. Their latest victim was the Hurricanes. Carolina goalie Pyotr Kochetkov was frustrating the Bruins and held a 2-1 third-period lead, but Krejci’s second goal of the game with just 10 minutes tied the game and led to the overtime victory. Finishing games last season was an issue for the Black and Gold, but not so much yet this season.
Bruins Have Been Historic in the First Quarter of the Season
The Bruins’ win over the Hurricanes on Nov. 25 improved the 12-0-0 on home ice, becoming the first team in NHL history to win their first dozen games to begin a season at home. There have been many reasons for their historic start and everything mentioned above has played a hand in it. There is a long way to go in the 2022-23 season, but nobody imagined the start the Black and Gold have had through 21 games.
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.