After playing 15 of their first 24 games on TD Garden ice, the Boston Bruins hit the road for a three-game road trip against three Western Conference opponents. The trip was against three teams that had already been at the TD Garden for the 2022-23 season and Boston went 2-0-1 against the trio on home ice. To say it was a strange road trip would be an understatement.
After opening it with their second win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche in five days on Dec. 7, a team that was depleted with injuries, they suffered a frustrating loss to the Arizona Coyotes, before a 3-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, another team hit hard with injuries, to close out the trip. Here are three takeaways from the three-game road trip.
Bruins Third Line Becoming a Force
The Bruins’ top two lines have been consistent most of the season, but their third line is becoming a difference-maker since Taylor Hall was dropped down there with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic. Against the Avalanche, they accounted for three of the Bruins’ four goals in a 4-0 victory.
Related: Bruins’ Sweeney Deserves Credit for Team’s 2022-23 Start
Latest News & Highlights
After David Pastrnak gave the Black and Gold a 1-0 second-period lead, Hall was standing at the doorstep of Avalanche goalie Alexandar Georgiev’s net and tapped home a pass from Coyle after creating a turnover at the offensive blue line. In the third period, Frederic gave the visitors a 3-0 lead, before Hall capped off the scoring with a breakaway goal. The trio combined for seven points in the game.
Two nights later against the Arizona Coyotes and the game tied 1-1 in the second period, Coyle scored when he got to the front of the net and jammed home a loose puck. Against Vegas, Coyle had a goal, and Hall had an assist. Since Hall was dropped down, the line has been consistent and a difference-maker that Boston needs behind their top two lines.
Slow Starts and End of Periods Continue to Be an Issue
One storyline that has been hanging over the Bruins this season and gets lost in their 21-4-1 start has been their issues beginning games slow. In the last week, they fell behind the Vegas Golden Knights 3-0 on Dec. 5 before rallying to force a shootout and losing 4-3. Against the Avalanche, they struggled to get their feet under them and it could be tied to the high altitude in Denver, but because of Linus Ullmark, they never faced a deficit. Against the Coyotes, it was a different story.
Former Bruin Josh Brown scored his second goal of the season against his former team just 23 seconds into the game at Arizona State University, but the early-period struggles didn’t stop there. In the third period of a 2-2 game, Nick Schmaltz scored 53 seconds into the final period, and to add insult to injury, Lawson Crouse scored his second goal of the game with 13.7 seconds left to break a 3-3 tie and give Arizona their second home win of the season in just their fifth home game. The Bruins need to fix their beginning and end-of-period issues going forward.
Bruins Power Play Struggled on Trip
The Bruins entered the trip with the third-ranked power play in the NHL, but it didn’t do them many favors out West. They went a combined 2-for-12, with the two goals coming against the Avalanche and Coyotes by Pastrnak and Nick Foligno, but they could have used more production from either unit.
Arizona goalie Karel Vejmelka was tremendous turning back 43 of the 46 shots fired at him by Boston. On the six Bruins’ power plays, they had 11 of their 46 shots against Vejmelka, but he was up to task nine times. Boston’s power play was clicking earlier this season and against the Coyotes, one or two more goals could have been the difference. The Black and Gold had point-blank shots, shots through screens, and shots from the point fired a Vejmelka and he was up to the task on nine of them.
The Bruins return home to begin a five-game home homestand on Dec. 13 against the New York Islanders. They sit one point ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division and with five games at the TD Garden where they are 14-0-1, it’s another opportunity for them to bank some points before a key road trip coming up around their Christmas break, which includes two games against the Metropolitan Division-leading New Jersey Devils.