If there is anything we have learned from the Boston Bruins through five games in the 2020-21 season, it’s that patience is critical. With superstar winger David Pastrnak still recovering from offseason hip surgery, the offense seemed to be at a standstill and struggled to put the puck in the net in even-strength play. Coming into the two-game series with the Philadelphia Flyers, the Bruins only scored three goals, two on the power play and one shorthanded, and were searching for answers offensively.
Boston’s answers came from some unexpected names, giving the team an instant spark for the remainder of the series. After trailing 2-0 going into the third period Thursday night, the Bruins scored four goals in the final 20 minutes and eventually picked up their second win the season in a shootout, 5-4. The momentum in the third period from Thursday night carried over to Saturday when the Bruins tacked on six goals, three alone in the third period, to win in convincing fashion 6-1 for their second straight. It was a 10-goal performance for Boston in the two games, and the offensive pressure will continue if:
Unexpected Names Continue to Produce
In the first few games to start the season, the veterans and leaders like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand made an impact offensively. Still, Boston needed other players to step up, and they did in the two games against Philadelphia. Forward Jack Studnicka scored his first career NHL goal, which also turned out to be the Bruin’s first even-strength goal of the season early in the third period.
Studnicka was active on the offensive end, moving without the puck and boosting the team when they needed to get going. He was a guy who head coach Bruce Cassidy talked a lot about in the early stages of training camp and somebody who showed promise during the bubble a season ago, so it was exciting to see him contribute when Boston struggled.
After the Studnicka goal, Boston started to figure things out. Another breakout star against Philadelphia had to be forward in Charlie Coyle. He scored the game-tying goal to knot the game at 2-2 on Thursday and had another two-point night with a goal and an assist on Saturday. His effort to create opportunities and put pucks to the net did not go unnoticed and turned out to be massive for Boston.
Here is a guy who could have been the MVP of the series for Boston. Does the name Nick Ritchie ring a bell? The 25-year-old winger was all over the ice with a total of four points in two games, and what stood out the most was his vision.
Ritchie sauced three assists combined over the two games, and it’s safe to say and admit that he’s come ready to play after a rocky season a year ago.
Intense Third Periods to Close Games
The most prominent aspect of the Bruins game as of late has been strong final periods. In the past two games, the Bruins have scored seven goals in the third period, and the energy has been fantastic. The team has come out with a different sense of urgency, and the credit has to go not only to the veteran leadership but also to coach Cassidy. He has gotten the absolute most out of his players in the final minutes, and if this continues, it could be a significant problem for the other teams contending (ask the Flyers) in the East.
It can be frustrating for a team to not cash in on scoring opportunities when outshooting another team. But when a group (like the Bruins) have guys with plenty of experience and have guys that know what it takes to win, they can overcome it. That’s what Boston did against Philadelphia, and what hockey fans saw not only on Thursday in the shootout win but especially in the dominant five-goal margin on Saturday. If Boston finishes third periods as they did against the Flyers, they will be hard to beat.
Even Strength Play Stays Alive
The Bruins will have to build off their even-strength play. There was some time to panic at the beginning of the season because the Bruins couldn’t capitalize on scoring chances at even strength, but they did have many opportunities. Boston outshot Philadelphia 43-26 on Thursday and 26-17 on Saturday, and let’s see if those kinds of numbers continue.
Next up for Boston is two at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins followed by a two-game road series against the Washington Capitals. It will be the first games in which former Bruins defenseman and captain Zdeno Chara faces his old mates. It will be a fascinating matchup, and Boston’s even-strength has to play at an elite level against Washington to be successful. The Capitals are in first place in the East with a record of 3-0-3 this season.