5 Takeaways From Bruins’ 5-Game Homestand

After beginning the season 17-0-2 on TD Garden ice, the Boston Bruins closed out a five-game homestand with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 22 for their 18th win on home ice in 2022-23. Despite playing with fire in multiple games during their five-game homestand, the Black and Gold were able to finish it 4-0-1. As Boston hits the road for a three-game trip sandwiched around Christmas break, here are five takeaways from the last five games at home.

Montgomery Calls on Bergeron to Deliver Message

Near the end of the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Dec. 17, the Bruins were not playing good hockey and coach Jim Montgomery felt that his message between the first and second periods was not heard. Instead of trying to deliver another message, he told captain Patrice Bergeron the locker room was his.

“Never mind the Hall of Fame player he is, he’s a Hall of Fame person and leader – so much so that after the first I was not happy with our team, and I was not very happy in between the periods when I addressed the team,” Montgomery recalled. “Second period, no impact, so I said to Bergy with 40 seconds left in the second, I said, ‘It’s your dressing room.’

“We came out and played our best period of the game, and that just speaks volumes of…it’s how much I trust him, and it’s how much the players listen to him.”

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Whatever Bergeron’s message was, it was received. The Bruins came out and played their best period of the game and scored two goals by Taylor Hall and Tomas Nosek in a 4-2 win. They outshot the Blue Jackets, 17-11, and supplied their most consistent pressure of the game over the final 20 minutes.

“It was really important,” Bergeron said. “When you’re playing good teams and you let them hang around, they’re gonna find a way, and then that’s where trouble starts. When you’re able to get that next goal, the extra goal, that’s when you kind of get that momentum, or you take the wind out of their sails.

“I think that’s kind of how we approached it, is trying to find a way to get that next goal. We say it right away. That fourth [one] was huge for us. To go up by three…it was an easier end of a game after that.”

Bergeron not only gets the respect of his locker room, but also the NHL. His shoes are going extremely difficult to fill when he retires.

Bruins Avoid Injury Bug

So far this season, the Bruins have been able to avoid any mounting injuries, aside from Derek Forbort and Jeremy Swayman each missing a month as both were injured against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 1. Against the Florida Panthers on Dec. 19 in a 7-3 win, Boston avoided injuries to two players.

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At the end of the first period, Matt Grzelcyk went down the tunnel to the locker room after receiving a hit, but he came back out for the second period and finished the game. In the second period, Nick Foligno, who has been one of the more consistent bottom-six forwards all season, collided with Eric Stall, both players went right to their bench shaken up, but both remained in the game. So far so good for the Bruins in avoiding injuries this season.

Goaltending Bails Out Shaky Third Periods

In two of the five games on the homestand, the Bruins had terrible third periods, something that has not been an issue this season, but they were bailed out by goaltenders Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. Against the New York Islanders on Dec. 13, the Bruins took a one-goal lead into the third period, only to have the visitors tie the game. Boston was able to win in a shootout, but they were not so lucky two nights later on Dec. 15 against the Los Angeles Kings.

Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Boston took a 2-0 lead into the third period, but gave up two goals in the final 11 minutes to force overtime. In the extra session, they were outplayed and outshot, 4-1, with Ullmark standing on his head to force a shootout. The Bruins were not as lucky this time as the Kings prevailed in seven rounds to gain the extra point. Against the Panthers, the Bruins were outshot 11-7 in the final 20 minutes, but somehow were able to break open a 4-3 game with three goals. The only way they were able to build on their lead was because of Ullmark’s heroics early in the period, keeping Florida from evening the score. Against the Jets, Swayman made eight third-period saves to keep the score tied at 2-2 until a goal from Foligno with nine minutes left was the difference.

Bruins Spent Too Much Time in the Penalty Box

One area that has been a concern for the Bruins lately is the march to the penalty box that has been happening. Against the Kings, it caught up with them as Connor Clifton and Brandon Carlo were whistled for minor penalties, nine seconds apart, which allowed Adrian Kempe to tie the game with his second goal of the game. The amount of time in the penalty box has not been lost on Montgomery.

“We’ve taken a lot of penalties, but I think tonight we took a lot of retaliatory penalties,” said Montgomery. “That usually is some sort of frustration involved, whether it’s the game…in the first period, it was eight minutes of special teams so there’s a lot of guys not getting the minutes they are used to. It creeps into your game and you’re waiting for things to get going and you’re not getting into the flow of the game as you usually do.”

If the Bruins didn’t have as good of a penalty kill as they do, this would be a bigger story. In the five-game homestand, they allowed 17 power plays to their opponents, but going forward, staying out of the penalty box is a must, especially with a lengthy West Coast road trip coming up after the Winter Classic on Jan. 2 against the Penguins.

Bruins Power Play Comes up Big

One reason for success in the close games on the homestand was the success of the power play. In the five games, they went 7-for-19 and scored a goal in four of the five games with five different players finding the back of the net.

David Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk each scored two, while David Krejci, Bergeron, and Brad Marchand each tallied one. They didn’t count as power play goals, but Hall twice scored on a 6-on-5 advantage on a delayed penalty call. The power play is a big key to what the Bruins do and getting continued success is just another reason for their strong start to the season.

Bruins Hit the Road Around Christmas Break

With 20 home games under their belt already this season compared to just 12 road games, the Bruins will hit the road for a three-game road trip around the Christmas break. They visit the New Jersey Devils tonight (Dec. 23) before the three-day break. They return from the break with a back-to-back road game against the Ottawa Senators (Dec. 27) and the Devils again (Dec. 28). Some of the tendencies they had at home in the last five games need to be fixed if they are going to have success on the road.

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