Five games into the 2022-23 season, the Boston Bruins are off to a surprisingly good start considering the injuries they are dealing with. Going into the season, the depth that first-year coach Jim Montgomery had was in question, but with six points in their first four games is just about as good of a start as they could have had.
Related: Bruins Need to Keep Clifton & Forbort Defensive Pairing Together
Boston has got some unexpected performances from some of their players through the first five games which have helped to fuel a better start than some saw coming. Here are four players that have had a surprisingly good start to the season.
Who saw this start coming? The bar is not high for Nick Foligno, but through the first five games, the Bruins are getting a much better version of the veteran forward than they got in 64 games last season. In five games, he has matched his goal total from 2021-22 with two already and has an assist, which was his 500th career point against the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 15 on a Pavel Zacha power play goal. Following the game, Foligno sounded like someone who was relieved to be off to a good start.
“Nice to get off to a good start, obviously, for our group. Two wins. Nice to contribute,” said Foligno. “I’m feeling good. I feel healthy. I’m excited, I like what our lines are all doing. That’s been the most fun, is every time that we step over the boards the identity that we have is exactly what we preached in training camp. It’s been fun to be a part of.”
Primarily on the fourth line with Tomas Nosek and rookie Jakub Lauko, Foligno has played well on the second power play unit, but has been more involved in the play 5-on-5. Also part of the Bruins’ penalty kill, Foligno has been doing a lot of the dirty work early in the season that does not show up on the scoresheet and it’s possible that when Boston placed him on waivers on Oct. 9, it was a wake-up call for him.
After a good preseason, Lauko made the opening roster and even got the start on the fourth line for the opening shift against the Washington Capitals with Nosek and Foligno for his NHL debut. He was a healthy scratch in the Bruins’ 5-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Oct. 17 when Jake DeBrusk made a surprise return to the lineup following an upper-body injury. His absence was noticeable in the play of the fourth line.
When Lauko is in the lineup, the Black and Gold’s fourth line is doing what it’s supposed to do, provide energy and change the flow of the game. The third pick, No. 77 overall in the 2018 Entry Draft, Lauko is averaging just under 11 minutes a night, but his job on the penalty kill has been as good as his 5-on-5 effort. He has drawn three penalties in three games, making life difficult for opposing teams’ defensemen.
Maybe we should have seen this coming considering DeBrusk looked like a different player in the preseason, but regardless, the 14th overall pick of the 2015 Draft has been making an impact nearly every time he’s been on the ice. After being moved up to the first line last season in February, he took his game to another level and he’s picking up this season where he left off last season.
DeBrusk was injured in the season-opener in Washington, and missed the Coyotes’ game three nights later, but made an impressive return against the Panthers on Oct. 17. He scored just 21 seconds into the game on the first shift, then in the second period, he made a nice cross-ice pass to Patrice Bergeron for a 3-1 lead. DeBrusk is playing like a different player, utilizing his speed, his forechecking has been relentless and he’s getting to the front of the net with purpose. He’s playing with the most confidence he has since the 2018-19 season and in all situations.
It was a year ago that DeBrusk requested a trade and general manager (GM) Don Sweeney held onto him through the deadline and signed him to a team-friendly two-year contract extension that carries an average annual value (AAV) of $4 million. Since he rescinded his request over the summer, the Bruins are seeing a new-look DeBrusk, one that they need with Brad Marchand out recovering from surgery.
Sweeney signed A.J. Greer over the summer for what was thought of as depth for the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), but the former New Jersey Devil had a strong preseason and has found himself a spot in the bottom six. In four games, the former Boston University standout has three goals and five points, including a two-goal game against Arizona.
Greer plays with a chip on his shoulder and fits the Bruins mold as a bottom-six forward, physical, tough on the puck and forecheck. Prior to signing with Boston, Greer had 47 career NHL games under his belt with just two goals. His surprising start has made it tough for Montgomery to consider removing him from the lineup. This is turning out to be an underrated signing by Sweeney early in the season.
It’s just a small sample size of five games, however, Foligno, Lauko, DeBrusk, and Greer have been pleasant surprises. They are just one of the reasons the Black and Gold are off to a good start to the season as they try and hold themselves within striking distance in the Eastern Conference standings until they are healthy.