After playing their first two preseason games on the road with very few players that will find themselves on the opening night roster on Oct. 16 against the Dallas Stars at the TD Garden, the Boston Bruins had pretty close to what their lineup will look like in the opener in their last two preseason games at home. On Sept. 30, the Bruins beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 4-2, before they lost to the New York Rangers, 4-3, in overtime Saturday night.
Wins and losses in preseason games carry no weight, but the performance of new teammates, newly formed lines, and defensive pairings do. Here are three takeaways from the Bruins’ second preseason game against the Rangers in four nights.
Bruins New Look Power Play Looks Good
Over the past two offseasons, the Bruins have lost two key members of their first power play unit. In 2020, defensemen Torey Krug left the Bruins for the St. Louis Blues in free agency, then this past summer, David Krejci announced he was not returning to Boston for a 16th season and will continue his career in the Czech Republic.
Thursday night against the Philadelphia Flyers, the Bruins went 2-for-5 on the man advantage, including scoring 10 seconds into their first opportunity, and against the Rangers, they again scored on their first attempt. The first unit of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall, and Charlie McAvoy scored 50 seconds into the man advantage when Pastrnak was set up for a one-timer from the left circle off a pass from Bergeron.
Against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sept. 30, the Bruins second unit of Craig Smith, Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, Jake DeBrusk, and Matt Grzelcyk also scored on their first shift together on the power play when Haula made a nice saucer pass to Foligno, who found Smith alone on the opposite side of the net for the goal.
It’s was just the second preseason game for the first unit together in a game situation, but they looked locked in. As they do every season, the Bruins are going to need production from their special teams, as the power play is a big part of what they do. Hall is a nice replacement for Krejci on the first unit, while the second unit has the potential to compliment the first unit. Last season, the Black and Gold finished 10th in the league and will need to improve on that this season.
First Line Looks in Mid-Season Form
The Bruins power play unit is not the only thing that has looked good. The first line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak scored the first three goals of the game for the Black and Gold in the first period against the Rangers. They actually scored in each of the three fazes in the first 13:28. Pastrnak’s power play goal got them going, then Bergeron scored on the next shift 5-on-5 on a slap shot from the right circle and Marchand scored a shorthanded goal when he broke in on Rangers goalie Alexander Georgiev and roofed a backhander under the crossbar after making a nice move just inside the New York blue line around a defensemen.
For the game, the line finished with eight shots on the net and a combined plus/minus of plus-4. Did the Rangers have their “A” lineup in the game? No, just like the Bruins did not on Sept. 28 at Madison Square Garden in a 3-2 New York win when Atremi Panarin recorded three points. Despite not playing against opponents’ top players, they still put on a clinic. They were making good passes, driving the net, and showing why they are one of the top lines in the NHL.
Ullmark Still Working Out Kinks
With Tuukka Rask a free agent and recovering from offseason surgery, it is not a certainty that he returns later in the season. That leaves the goaltending duties to youngster Jeremy Swayman and former Buffalo Sabres goalie Linus Ullmark, who signed a four-year, $20 million contract this summer. Swayman has been impressive in his two starts, while it has been a different story for Ullmark.
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On Sept. 28 against the Rangers, Ullmark gave up two goals on 13 shots in 26 minutes, but Saturday night was a reminder that this was a preseason game and he’s still working out the kinks. He gave up two first-period goals, one on a wrap-around and another on a screenshot. In the third period, Kevin Rooney scored on a penalty shot, but in overtime, Pastrnak made a safe value pass to Ullmark while going on a shift change 3-on-3. Ullmark’s pass intended for Mike Reilly, however, was stolen by Alexis Lafreniere and the first overall pick in the 2020 draft quickly deposited the puck into an open net for the win.
Like they did against the Flyers, both teams agreed to a shootout following the end of the game. Ullmark stopped four of the six attempts he faced after giving up the Lafreniere overtime winner. It was a good response after his overtime mistake.
Overall, it was two good performances for the Bruins in their first two preseason home games. The new-look power play looks like they have been together for a couple of seasons and the first-line is doing what they have done in the past, scoring in all three situations, and putting on an impressive performance 5-on-5. Two more preseason games are remaining, Monday at Philadelphia against the Flyers and Wednesday at home against the Washington Capitals before the regular season begins.
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.