Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down: Power Play Issues, Studnicka, Hall & More

Welcome to the latest 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.

It was a week that certainly had a lot more ups than downs for the Boston Bruins. They won three of their four games and are off to a fast 5-1-0 start that not a lot of people saw coming considering the injuries they are dealing with. The Bruins will enjoy two more games at home this week before they hit the road. Here is a look back at the last seven days for the Black and Gold.

Plus One: Matt Grzelcyk Makes Season Debut

In June, the Bruins announced that Matt Grzelcyk was going to be one of three players that were going to miss the beginning of the season recovering from offseason surgery. Along with Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy, the Black and Gold were preparing for up to two long months to begin the season without two of their top-four defensemen and their leading scorer from last season. There were signs in the last week that Grzelcyk was getting closer to returning and he did against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 20.

Matt Grzelcyk, Boston Bruins
Matt Grzelcyk, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Grzelcyk made his season debut in the Bruins’ 2-1 shootout victory, playing with Jakub Zboril and logged just over 20 minutes in the game and playing in all situations. Against the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 22, Grzelcyk had an assist and tied for a team-high with five shots on the net in just under 20 minutes of time on the ice. His return is a nice addition to a unit that had been playing well in the first three games, before their hiccup on Oct. 18 in a 7-5 loss to the Ottawa Senators. McAvoy is practicing with his teammates, but in a non-contact jersey, which is a good sign that he is on schedule to return around American Thanksgiving.

Minus One: Anton Stralman Struggles in First Game as a Bruin

When the Bruins made it official on Oct. 12 when they signed veteran defenseman Anton Stralman to a one-year, $1 million contract, it was a low-risk, high-reward move considering the lack of right-shot depth on defense. He finally joined his teammates in Boston on Oct. 21 after clearing up visa issues, but he was able to make his debut against the Senators in Canada.

It was a forgettable night for the 36-year-old veteran who struggled in the defensive end, turned the puck over for an Ottawa goal, played 18:29, and finished with a plus/minus of minus-2 in what was a tough night for the defense all-around.

“I thought he had a really good first period,” said Montgomery. “I think you can tell he hasn’t been able to skate with us as a group, you can tell he got a little tired as the game went on but he is going to be a really good Bruin for us.”

Jim Montgomery

It’s hard to judge off of one game and the first game for a veteran who did not have much time on the ice in training camp. Most of his teammates had to work off the rust in previous games, and you have to expect that he will get better with practice time and game action. Montgomery said that he will stay out of the lineup and get more practice time under his belt before his next game.

Plus Two: Brad Marchand Continues to Practice With Main Group

At the beginning of training camp, Marchand would skate ahead of the practice sessions for his teammates at Warrior Ice Arena, in the last seven days, he has been participating in practice, centering the top line in Patrice Bergeron’s absence. He also has been working with the top power play unit.

Related: Bruins Exceeding Expectations Early in 2022-23 Season

Marchand and McAvoy were placed on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) which means they have to miss at least 10 games and their salary cap hits do not go on the Bruins’ books. Marchand has a late November time frame to return, but given that he is practicing with his teammates at a good speed it is a positive sign.

Minus Two: Jack Studnicka Has Season Debut to Forget

On Oct. 20, Jack Studnicka made his season debut as the center on the third line between Trent Frederic and Charlie Coyle. It turned out to be a forgetful night for the Bruins’ center prospect in the shootout win over the Ducks.

Jack Studnicka Boston Bruins
Jack Studnicka, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After Taylor Hall gave the Bruins a 1-0 second-period lead, Studnicka had a turnover at the Anaheim blueline which sent the Ducks 2-on-1 the other way and the break ended with former Bruin Frank Vatrano scoring to even the game. To compound matters, Studnicka took a third-period penalty which his teammates killed off, but it was not a good look for the youngster fighting to find a place in the lineup.

Plus Three: Taylor Hall Provides Offense in Wins Over Anaheim & Minnesota

Two nights after the Bruins lost their first game of the season to the Senators, they were able to bounce back against the Ducks and win a shootout with Hall providing all the offense. He scored the first goal of the game in the second period when Ducks’ goalie John Gibson attempted to clear the puck, but it hit Hall and he was able to quickly spin around and beat Gibson between the pads.

Taylor Hall Boston Bruins
Taylor Hall, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After Frank Vatrano tied the game for Anaheim later in the middle period, both teams failed to score in the third period and overtime despite several chances and power plays. The game went to the shootout, where Hall scored the only goal when he was able to slide the puck between Gibson’s legs again before Linus Ullmark stopped the final attempt to secure the win. It was Hall’s first goal since scoring on opening night against the Washington Capitals.

Related: 3 Bruins’ Takeaways From 4-3 Overtime Win Over Wild

Against the Wild, Hall scored the game-winning goal in overtime and had two assists and on both first-period goals, Boston scored by Nick Foligno and David Pastrnak. Going forward, the Black and Gold are going to need all the offense they can get from Hall.

Minus Three: Bruins Power Play Struggles Through Six Games

One area the Bruins are hoping to be better than last season is on the power play and why not? You add David Krejci to the first unit and even without Marchand, they have plenty of offensive talent that Montgomery can send over the boards. What makes the impressive start to the season for Boston is the lack of production they have been getting from their power play units. Through the first six games, they are just 4-for-22 and it looks like they are trying to feed the puck to Pastrnak too much in the first group. Opponents have done a nice job taking away the Bruins’ dynamic scorer, who has yet to find the back of the net with the man advantage.

“I think power play and 5-on-5, [players are forcing it to David Pastrnak],” said Montgomery. “It’s almost like two guys are shaded towards Pasta and we’re forcing these sauce passes over to him instead of taking what’s available.”

Bergeron, Hall, David Krejci, and Pavel Zacha have the four power play goals this season.

Boston closes out their homestand with games against the Dallas Stars on Oct. 25 and the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 27 before they hit the road for a lengthy road trip. Closing out the homestand with at least two or three points will go a long way toward setting them up for a road trip that starts on Oct. 28 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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