Bruins Weekly: Bergeron Passes Bourque, Steen, Haula & More

After a 16-day break, the Boston Bruins returned to the ice on New Years Day to begin their vaunted stretch of 56 games left in the regular season through the end of April. It’s certainly going to have a 2020-21 season compacted schedule feel for the Black and Gold. In this week’s edition of Bruins Weekly, we look back at a very busy week that was coach Bruce Cassidy and his team.

Bruins Free Agent Forward Additions Find the Back of the Net

Over the summer, general manager Don Sweeney went on a spending frenzy in the free-agent market. Defensemen Derek Forbort and goaltender Linus Ullmark were signed, but Sweeney also signed three veteran forwards as part of a remake with the bottom-six. In the first 26 games, the returns were not great as Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek struggled not only scoring, but in their overall play in general. That all changed quickly following the break.

Erik Haula Boston Bruins
Erik Haula, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Foligno scored his first goal as a Bruin on New Years Day against the Buffalo Sabres when he started a third-period rally by scoring on the rebound of a Jake DeBrusk shot, which led to a 4-3 overtime win. On Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings, Nosek and Haula each scored in a 5-1 Bruins win. Haula’s goal in the second period, which turned out to be the game-winning goal, was on a perfect shot on a 2-on-1 from the left circle, over the shoulder of Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic. Haula was bumped up to the second line center, between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak, after playing on the wing before the season was shut down on Dec. 18 because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

“I felt like my game was headed towards the right direction before all this stuff happened, and I thought my game elevated when I got out on the wing a little bit. I feel like it’s been trending towards what I expect for myself,’’ said Haula.

Expecting big production from any of these three would be a mistake as none of the three are big point producers, but for a team that has been struggling for secondary scoring, it’s a welcomed sight to see them each score right after the break. Any production is welcomed production.

Even Strength Goal Scoring Up

Scoring in general has been an issue for the Bruins in any manner this season. Through the first 26 games, they had scored just 71 goals. In their three games back from their break, they have scored 14 goals, with all coming via even strength hockey. Four against the Sabres, five against the Red Wings, and five more against the New Jersey Devils have the Bruins at a plus/minus of plus-6, a season-high for even-strength goals.

Related: Bruins Finally Getting Production From All Four Lines

It is not just the first line producing the goals either. The new-look first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Craig Smith has just two goals in that stretch. It’s amazing what secondary scoring can do for a team.

Bergeron Passes Bourque

In his career with the Bruins, Bergeron has done just about everything. He has won a Stanley Cup, four Selke Trophies, and been named captain following Zdeno Chara’s departure in free agency prior to the 2020-21 season. On Sunday, he passed a Bruins all-time great against Detroit.

Ray Bourque Bruins
Former Bruins defensemen Raymond Bourque (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

When Bergeron tied the game 1-1 with his first-period goal, he passed Ray Bourque for the fourth-most career goals in road games with his 180th tally. Bergeron has a way to go climbing further up the list. Rick Middleton is next with 189 and Phil Esposito has 203 goals away from home. Johnny Bucyk is the all-time leader with 245, a feat that Bergeron most likely won’t catch. Regardless, he’s in some good company with all of those other names.

Kuhlman & DeBrusk Enter COVID-19 Protocols

In what seems like a never-ending story this season, the Bruins place two more players into the league’s COVID-19 protocols. Following the overtime win over Buffalo on New Years Day, Boston announced that Karson Kuhlman, who was on the taxi squad, was placed into the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, which meant he did not travel to Detroit. On Tuesday ahead of their game against the Devils, Jake DeBrusk, who missed time in the 2020-21 season because of COVID-19, was also placed in the NHL’s protocols.

Oskar Steen was recalled from the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the trip to Detroit. Steen was quickly inserted into the lineup against the Red Wings when Curtis Lazar was scratched after being injured late in the game against the Sabres. Steen, who played on the fourth line with Nosek and Trent Frederic, wasted little time making a presence as he assisted on Nosek’s goal in the third period. Four games this season in Boston for Steen and the youngster has three assists and has impressed adjusting to the NHL game. He was sent back to Providence on Monday, but returned to Boston and was put in the lineup against the Devils to replace DeBrusk on the third line with Foligno and Charlie Coyle Tuesday night. In the second period, he scored his first career NHL goal in an unusual fashion.

It might be one of the most unusual first career NHL goals, knocking the puck off of the top of the net, but Steen and the Bruins will take it. It certainly won’t be a goal that he will ever forget.

Penalty Kill Strong, Power Play Struggles

Coming off an extended break, you knew some parts of the Bruins game would struggle. The penalty kill has been strong, killing off all eight of the opponents eight opportunities. As usual, that was big in their wins over the Sabres, Red Wings, and Devils.

The power play, on the other hand, has been a struggle and was before the shutdown in mid-December. Against Buffalo and Detroit, they went scoreless in seven chances and failed to score in their only opportunity against New Jersey. The Bruins are getting chances on the man advantage, but have found some unlucky bounces and even posts. Fortunately for the Black and Gold, their even-strength goal-scoring carried them over the week to three wins, but the power play going forward is going to need to contribute if they are going to survive the vaunted remaining 53 games in less than four months.

The Week Ahead

  • Thursday: vs. Minnesota Wild, 7 p.m.
  • Saturday: at Tampa Bay Lightning, 7 p.m.
  • Monday: at Washington Capitals, 7 p.m.

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