If there has been one team that has been a thorn in the side of the Boston Bruins in 2022-23, it’s been the Ottawa Senators. In the team’s first two meetings this season, both in Canada, the Senators own a 7-5 win over the Bruins on Oct. 18 and a 3-2 shootout win on Dec. 27. Entering their third meeting of the season Monday afternoon (Feb. 20) at the TD Garden, the Senators were 7-1-1 in their previous nine games and making a late push for the second Eastern Conference wild card spot, five points behind both the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. Unfortunately for Ottawa, the third time was not the charm against the Black and Gold this season.
It wasn’t always pretty, but the Bruins were able to get their first win of the season over the Senators with a 3-1 victory on a day when David Krejci was honored for playing his 1,000th game earlier this season. With the win, the Bruins improved to 43-8-5 and 24-2-3 on home ice. They also are the first team to reach 90 points this season with 91 and have a nine-point lead over the Carolina Hurricanes for the top spot in the NHL. Here are three takeaways from Boston’s final home game before a four-game trip through Seattle and Western Canada.
Charlie McAvoy & Matt Grzelcyk Pairing Had Mixed Results
Coach Jim Montgomery paired Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk together and the duo got mixed results against the Senators. With the Bruins holding a 1-0 lead late in the first period, Grzelcyk gifted Ottawa their only goal of the game with a bad turnover in the defensive end. His turnover in the corner ended up on the stick of Dylan Gambrell who found Claude Giroux in front of the net and he was able to beat Linus Ullmark to tie the game.
McAvoy had himself a three-point game when he assisted on all three Bruins’ goals, including on both goals by David Pastrnak with two beautiful passes. In the second period, he allowed the puck to bounce off the boards and go through his legs where he swung his body around a Senators forward, delivered a cross-ice pass to Pastrnak and he buried a wrist shot over the shoulder of Senators goalie Kevin Mandolese for his 40th goal of the season. In the third period, he was down on the ice just inside the defensive zone, and while on one knee, he sent a pass through two Ottawa defensemen to Pastrnak who put the game away with a breakaway goal.
Bruins Top Two Lines Make Big Impact
The Bruins’ first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Jake DeBrusk was buzzing all game long and creating scoring chances for themselves and their defensemen. DeBrusk opened the scoring in the first period when he took a pass from Marchand and had his first shot stopped by Mandolese, but he was able to score on the rebound. In the game, they combined for 11 shots, but it was also their work along the boards, behind the net, relentless forecheck, and passing that stood out in the offensive zone.
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Boston’s second line of Pastrnak, Krejci, and Pavel Zacha had just as good of a game. Pastrnak scored two of the three Bruins goals, they the trio also finished with 11 shots on the net combined and generated just as many chances as the top line. While the first line’s work was mostly done from hard grinding shifts in the offensive end, the second line got a lot of their chances and opportunities off the rush.
Bergeron and Krejci were very good at the faceoff dot with Bergeron winning 13 of his 23 draws and Krejci winning 10 of his 18 draws. In recent games, the Bruins have been getting contributions from their bottom six, but against the Senators, it was their top six that did a lot of the damage, combining for 22 of their 32 shots on Mandolese.
Bruins Survive Shaky First Period
One of the Bruins’ strengths this season has been their strong first periods, which have set the tone for the final two periods. Ottawa, which was playing its second game in less than 24 hours after beating the St. Louis Blues, 7-2, at home the day before, was the more physical team, had more shots on the net, and took advantage of Grzelcyk’s defensive zone turnover.
One reason why the game was tied following the opening 20 minutes was because of the play of goalie Linus Ullmark. In the first two games of the season series, Jeremy Swayman got the call, but Montgomery played the NHL’s leading goaltender in terms of wins and the move paid off. He stopped 12 of the 13 shots the Senators sent his way and also got some help from the post. After Krejci was called for tripping late in the period, Ottawa captain Brady Tkachuk had the puck on his stick in the slot and beat Ullmark to the far side, but the puck hit the post and went into the corner.
Before DeBrusk gave the Bruins the lead, the penalty kill was called on to kill a two-man advantage. Craig Smith was called for an offensive zone trip behind the net, then 11 seconds later, Bergeron was called for hooking. Boston was able to successfully kill the 1:49 two-man advantage without giving up a goal despite Ottawa having some lengthy offensive zone time. Charlie Coyle was key on the penalty kill during his shift twice clearing the puck on a good individual effort. Not allowing a goal during the 5-on-3 went a long way toward the victory.
Now the Bruins head out west for the third and final time this season with their annual swing that begins in Seattle, then finishes out with three games in Western Canada. The Bruins will have the four games jammed into six days, which ends with a back-to-back against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, two teams looking for any and all points in their quest for a Western Conference playoff berth. It’s not going to be an easy trip, which begins with the Black and Gold looking to avenge their first regulation home loss of the season against the Seattle Kraken on Jan. 12, 3-0. When they return home, the trade deadline will be one day away on March 3 and a lot of rumors and questions will be answered by then.