Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down: Smith, DeBrusk, Zacha, Trades & More

After stumbling before the All-Star Break and the game after it losing four out of five games, the Boston Bruins got back on track in the last seven days. They swept all three games, including a near-flawless 60-minute effort against the Nashville Predators on the road. While it was mostly good news for the Black and Gold, there was some news that was not so good.

Boston Bruins 3 Up, 3 Down
Boston Bruins 3 Up, 3 Down (The Hockey Writers)

After a two-week hiatus let’s look back at the last seven days for Boston in the latest Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down.

Plus One: Bruins Sweep Two-Game Siblings Road Trip

During the NHL season, teams have a mother’s and father’s separate trips where the parents get a chance to join their son on the road and see what it’s like during the season with what happens when they travel. Last week, during their two-game road trip through Dallas and Nashville, the Bruins did a siblings trip and it was just what the team needed.

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Losing four of their five games before the trip, the Bruins rallied to be the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars in overtime, 3-2, then had a dominant 5-0 shutout of the Predators.  Against the Stars, David Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Charlie McAvoy in the extra session for the win, then five different goal scorers powered the win over the Predators. It was two wins that were badly needed.

Minus One: Craig Smith 

The Bruins are in the market for a right wing at the trade deadline and one of the reasons why they are is the continued struggles of Craig Smith. It just has not been the season that he or the team was hoping he would have under first-year coach Jim Montgomery. In three games last week, he picked up a goal against the Predators when his pass to the front of the net deflected in off of Jeremy Lauzon.

Craig Smith Boston Bruins
Craig Smith, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Besides the goal, it was another week where he struggled in two games on the top line before sliding down to the third line against the New York Islanders. In a perfect world for general manager (GM) Don Sweeney, trading him by the deadline would be big and allow the acquisition of a forward, something the Bruins can use, whether it’s Ivan Barbashev, Max Domi, or anyone else that will be available. Anyone else would be considered an upgrade.

Plus Two: Pavel Zacha & Hampus Lindholm

The last two moves that general manager (GM) Don Sweeney has pulled off had a strong week on the road. Pavel Zacha had a big hand in the win over the Stars. He tied the game midway through the third period when he scored on a wrist shot from the left circle. Then in overtime, he carried the puck into the Dallas zone, and dropped a pass to McAvoy, who drew the Stars’ defenders before he laid a perfect cross-ice pass to Pastrnak for his one-timer. In a 6-2 win over the Islanders, Zacha finished the scoring with a second-period goal. What a steal that trade is turning into being for the Bruins.

Pavel Zacha Boston Bruins
Pavel Zacha, Boston Bruins (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Against the Predators, Lindholm delivered a perfect pass to a steaking Patrice Bergeron in the second period for a power play goal to break the Bruins’ 0-for-22 streak. In the third period, he picked up the secondary assist on Trent Frederic’s goal that sealed the 5-0 win. Lindholm has an NHL-best plus/minus of plus-35 and has been everything that Boston has hoped he would be and more.

Minus Two: Second-Period Struggles

One concerning trend last week was in two of the three games, the Bruins were not at their best in the second period and both times, Ullmark was up to the task. Against the Stars, Dallas had several opportunities to take a bigger lead than 2-1 into the final period, but Ullmark (nine saves in the period) made several Grade A saves, including one at the end of the period while the home team was on the power play.

Against the Islanders, the Bruins dominated the first period, but not so much in the second, despite outscoring them 3-1. Kyle Palmieri got New York on the board early in the period, then before Boston extended their lead, Ullmark stopped Palmieri on a breakaway. The Islanders fired 12 shots on the net in the period, with 11 of them getting stopped. The Bruins were much more effective in the period with three goals on just six shots, but it was less than a satisfying 20 minutes for the Black and Gold.

Plus Three: Jake DeBrusk’s Return

After 17 games, Jake DeBrusk returned to the lineup against the Islanders and made an immediate impact with a power play goal just 2:49 into the game. He was slotted back on the first line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron after his thumb and foot injuries. DeBrusk played 13:07 in the game on 19 shifts and picked up an assist on Bergeron’s second-period goal. Getting the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft back in the lineup is just as big as picking up a forward at the trade deadline.

Minus Three: Maple Leafs Make Blockbuster Trade

Speaking of the 2023 trade deadline it’s 11 days away, but there have already been some big moves with two Eastern Conference contenders. The New York Islanders and New York Rangers each made a splash by acquiring Bo Horvat and Vladimir Tarasenko respectively. On Feb. 17, you can add the Toronto Maple Leafs to the list of teams that got much better and will be a tough out in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Bo Horvat New York Islanders
Bo Horvat, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Toronto acquired center Ryan O’Reilly and former Bruin Noel Acciari from the St. Louis Blues in a three-team deal that also included the Minnesota Wild. O’Reilly, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2019 when the Blues beat the Bruins in seven games in the Stanley Cup Final, adds depth up the middle for the Maple Leafs, but also is flexible to slide to the wing. Regardless, Toronto is a much better team than the one Boston beat on Feb. 1 before the All-Star Break.

After a home game on Feb. 20 against the Ottawa Senators, the Bruins will hit the road for their third and final West Coast trip of the season with four games. When they come home, it will be the day before the March 3 trade deadline and we’ll know soon enough what the roster will look like for the rest of the season.

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