Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down: Zacha, Grzelcyk, Injuries & More

Welcome to the latest edition of the Boston Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down for the 2022-23 season. This will be a weekly column released on Mondays chronicling the highs and lows of the previous seven days.

Another week down for the NHL’s best team, but despite their success, the Boston Bruins had some ups and downs in the last seven days. In the latest edition of Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down, the injury bug returns, the Black and Gold continue to get production from an unlikely group, the special teams get mixed results, and more.

Plus One: Production From Defensemen

You would never know it because of all the winning the Bruins have been doing, but there was a stretch where they were getting no production from their defense, something that you figure would go up with the new system. Over four games last week, the Bruins got six goals from their blueliners.

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Matt Grzelcyk, who scored the game-winning goal in a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 14, scored against the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 16. Charlie McAvoy and Derek Forbort each had a goal in a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders On Jan. 18 and Connor Clifton finished off a 2-on-1 with Brad Marchand against the New York Rangers on Jan. 19 in a 3-1 victory. Against the San Jose Sharks in a 4-0 win on Jan.22, Hampus Lindholm opened the scoring with a first-period goal, before Charlie McAvoy added one in the second period. Boston is getting production from up and down their four lines and any production from the back end is going to make them tougher to play against.

Minus One: Injuries

If there’s one thing that the Bruins have been able to avoid this season, it’s a lot of injuries. Unfortunately, their luck seems to be running out. They avoided a major injury against the Islanders in the third period when Patrice Bergeron took a deflected slap shot to his face. After being helped off the ice by his teammates, he was able to return and finish the game. Brandon Carlo was not as lucky.

Brandon Carlo, Boston Bruins
Brandon Carlo, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Early in the second period against the Rangers, the Bruins’ big physical defenseman blocked a shot and was not seen again. After two days off, he returned to the lineup against the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 22. Tomas Nosek missed the Islanders game with an injury, but returned against the Rangers, and suffered a long-term injury with a broken foot that will sideline him for at least one month (from ‘Bruins lose Tomas Nosek to foot fracture; center set to miss a month or more,’ Boston Globe, Jan. 22, 2023).

Plus Two: Pavel Zacha

Following the win over the Maple Leafs, general manager (GM) Don Sweeney announced that the Bruins agreed to a four-year contract extension with Pavel Zacha, locking him in Boston. Since announcing the deal, the sixth overall pick of the 2015 Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils is on a tear in terms of production.

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

Against the Flyers, he had two goals and an assist, against the Islanders he picked up an assist for Forbort’s goal. One night later against the Rangers, he opened the scoring just 1:19 into the game when he redirected David Krejci’s shot from the point over the shoulder of Igor Shesterkin. Three goals and two assists is the most productive week he’s had this season. This trade from last summer looks better and better.

Minus Two: Power Play Going Stale

When they’re clicking, the puck is moving and the high-danger chances are off the charts with both power play units. Last week, the power play was a struggle despite two goals and the case could be made that some adjustments are needed. You can give their opponents credit, yes, however, the puck movement and their attempted shots are coming from the same areas.

David Pastrnak, who scored on the man advantage against the Sharks, is the go-to guy with his slap shot on the cross-ice pass, usually from Marchand, but recently, the Black and Gold have been force-feeding the bumper position with Bergeron, which teams a focusing on shutting down. Jake DeBrusk’s loss is not only being felt on the first line, but also on the first power play unit. He does a nice job of getting good position and being able to redirect passes into the net. Taylor Hall has been filling in for DeBrusk and getting him in position in front of the net for a deflection would be another threat for their opponents to worry about.

Plus Three: Bruins Penalty Kill

Another week, another strong week for the Bruins’ penalty kill. They were perfect in four games by killing all 17 opportunities. They killed six, including a lengthy two-man advantage, against the Flyers, then killed six more against the Islanders. They successfully killed all three chances that the toughest power play they faced all week in the Rangers had, then went a perfect 2-for-2 against the Sharks.

Forbort was huge, as usual, on the PK and he finished the two-game road trip through New York with 12 blocks. Boston caught a break with Carlo returning against the Sharks, but as it has been all season, the penalty kill has been one of their strong points.

Minus Three: Bruins Still Need a First-Line Right Wing

Craig Smith has been the latest Bruin to join Marchand and Bergeron on the top line since DeBrusk’s injury, but there are too many times it feels like there are two forwards on the ice when they are on the ice 5-on-5. Not breaking up the Czechia line on the second line, I get it, but sooner or later, there needs to be consistency with the veterans on the first line.

The Bruins hit the road for a five-game trip before reaching the All-Star break the first weekend in February. Getting through the next five games and getting 11 days around the break is going to be big for a veteran team. Regardless of what happens in the next five games, the first 51 games for the Black and Gold are something not too many saw coming.

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