In this week’s edition of Bruins Weekly, David Pastrnak makes his season debut against the Washington Capitals and makes his presence felt right away, coach Bruce Cassidy changes things up on the power play, Charlie McAvoy’s game continues to evolve and Matt Grzelcyk leads the list of growing injuries.
Pastrnak Makes Season Debut
When the Bruins announced in October that Pastrnak underwent hip surgery in September, the team had a mid-February time frame for the Maurice Rocket Richard co-winner from last season to return. He made his season debut two weeks ahead of schedule on Saturday night against the Capitals and made an immediate impact in his first two games. He picked up his first point of the season when he assisted on McAvoy’s goal with 58 seconds left in regulation that tied the game Saturday night and then he scored his first two goals goal of the season Monday night as the Bruins rallied for a 5-3 win with four third period goals.
Pastrnak was reunited with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on the top line and despite showing some rust, he was moving well, got better as each game went on. He had 12 shots on net combined in the two games.
Five Forward Power Play
The Bruins power play has been clicking early in the season and Saturday night with his team trailing 3-0 against Washington, Cassidy got creative on the man advantage as he looked to give his team a spark late in the second period. Primarily a four forward, one defenseman grouping, the Bruins fifth-year head coach decided to go with five forwards, and the move paid off.
Cassidy sent out Marchand, Pastrnak, Bergeron, Nick Ritchie, and David Krejci as the five forwards. After swarming around the Capitals zone with possession for the first 51 seconds of the man advantage, a Krejci slap shot from the point hit Ritchie’s leg and found the back of the net. In the third period and Boston down by a goal, Cassidy once again went to the same five forwards on the power play, but they failed to score. He used the five-forward power play again Monday night, but it did not result in a goal.
McAvoy Continues to Shine on Defense
The young Bruins defense has been better than expected early in the season and McAvoy is a big reason why as he continues to embrace taking on the role as the leader of the blue line. He has been strong in the defensive end with partner Jeremy Lauzon, but his offensive game took a big step forward this week.
In the past three games, McAvoy’s offensive game played a big part in the Bruins securing five out of a possible six points in the MassMutual East Division standings. Thursday against the Penguins, he assisted on a third-period Bergeron power-play goal that put the game away in a 4-1 Boston victory. Saturday night, he had his best offensive game of the season against the Capitals. He set up Marchand with a goal to cut the Boston deficit to 3-2 early in the third period and then in the final minute, he scored his first goal of the season to tie the game when he knocked in a loose puck in the slot. He ran his point streak to five consecutive games Monday night with an assist.
McAvoy is averaging 29 shifts a night early in the season and has averaged just under 25 minutes a game, which is up almost two full minutes from last season.
It seems like every time the Bruins play, there is an injury that occurs. The list of players who are out of the lineup got longer in the last week and it appears they will be without the services of some key pieces for a while. Matt Grzelcyk has already suffered three injuries and his latest one appears to be the most serious.
Grzelcyk suffered an upper-body injury against the New York Islanders on Jan. 18 and then a lower-body injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 21. Last Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, he missed the third period with his second lower-body injury in a week and he has missed the last two games against Washington. Losing Grzelcyk is a blow to the defense as he has been a perfect fit as Torey Krug’s replacement as the only defensemen on the power play and he has played well with his new partner, Brandon Carlo.
Forward Jake DeBrusk was injured in the first period against the Penguins on Jan. 26 and didn’t return, while rookie Jack Studnicka was injured two nights later. Boston has yet to announce what DeBrusk’s and Studnicka’s injuries are. All three players are not on the Bruins’ current four-game road trip and are out for the foreseeable future.
The Week Ahead
- Wednesday: at Philadelphia Flyers, 8 P.M.
- Friday: at Philadelphia Flyers, 7 P.M.
- Saturday: vs. Buffalo Sabres, 7:30 P.M.
- Monday: vs. Buffalo Sabres, 7 P.M.
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.