It’s just a month into the NHL season, but Saturday afternoon’s game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center was an early-season gut-check for the Boston Bruins. After dropping the most disappointing game of the young season on Nov. 11 against the Edmonton Oilers at home after allowing three third period goals, coach Bruce Cassidy’s team was able to bounce back to beat the Devils, 5-2, for what could be considered a key early-season win.
Here are three takeaways from Boston’s seventh victory of the season and just their second in six tries away from the TD Garden.
Bruins Played Better Third Period
Just like they did against the Oilers, the Black and Gold took a 3-2 lead into the third period, but this time, they were able to protect the lead and add some insurance with two goals. It was the sixth time this season that the Bruins took a lead into the final 20 minutes and they improved to 5-1, with their one loss come against Edmonton, but this time, Boston was aggressive in the final period.
The Bruins held a 6-1 advantage in shots early in the period and played their game with tight forechecking and limited the number of turnovers they had. How the Bruins were going to respond after their performance against Edmonton was the biggest question entering the game, but they were able to get ahead and stay ahead, forcing the Devils to play catch up all afternoon.
It was not the solid 60-minute performance that Boston has yet to play this season and there was still one cause for concern that came out of the game. Against the Oilers, Boston twice took early one-goal leads, only to have Edmonton answer right back less than a minute later both times. It was deja vu all over again after Brad Marchand gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead in the second period. Twenty-four seconds after Marchand’s goal, the Devils cut the deficit in half when Dawson Mercer scored on an odd-man rush.
Going forward, the Bruins have to do a better job once they get momentum with a goal and not allow their opponent to answer right away. Three times in the last six periods is three times too many.
Bruins Took Advantage of Rebounds
In recent games, Bruins opponents have taken advantage of rebounds to score goals, and Saturday, it was Boston’s turn to benefit from loose pucks in front of the net. Devils’ goalie Jonathan Bernier was forced to make 31 saves, but three of those saves were not controlled by the veteran and the Black and Gold took full advantage.
Erik Haula scored his first goal as a Bruin in the first period when he knocked home the rebound of an Anton Blidh shot. In the second period, Marchand’s second goal of the game was scored when Bernier left a rebound of a David Pastrnak shot and the Bruins’ first-line left wing buried the loose puck at the top of the crease. In the third period, Pastrnak drove to the net only to have his shot blocked. With the puck sitting on the goal line, Patrice Bergeron stuffed home the rebound for a 4-2 lead.
Boston’s first line accounted for three of the five goals, with two of the three, along with Haula, being scored off of rebounds. The Bruins were aggressive in crashing the net and taking advantage of some rebounds, something they have not been doing as of late. They finished the game with 35 shots on Bernier and the mentality of shooting the puck was evident from the drop of the puck.
Swayman Solid in Net Again
Jeremy Swayman got the start and the rookie was strong making 27 saves, but some of the saves were timely and bailed some of his defensemen out. The biggest save the 22-year-old made was midway through the first period of a scoreless game off of yet another Brandon Carlo bad decision.
With the Bruins supplying pressure in the offensive end, Carlo kept the puck in at the blueline but attempted to make a cross-ice pass to partner Matt Grzelcyk. The pass was stolen by Pavel Zacha who ended up with a breakaway and Swayman made a stick save as Zacha tried to beat him between his pads. Following his turnover against the Oilers when he tried to make a similar pass across the slot in the defensive zone, Carlo’s decision-making is a cause for concern. This time Swayman bailed him out.
Swayman’s second-biggest save of the game happened in the third period with Boston holding a 4-2 lead. Mercer made a nice pass to Andreas Johnsson who was behind the defense below the left circle. Swayman was able to slide over and stop a shot headed inside the near post to keep his team with a two-goal lead.
There were certainly more positives than negatives for the Bruins. With their trouble on the road and their third-period effort against the Oilers two days earlier, this was a game that was going to tell Cassidy a lot about his team. The veteran coach had to be happy with the two points as they head home to face the Montreal Canadiens in their final game before another five-day break before they play again.
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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.