Another week is in the books for the Boston Bruins, with plenty going on. In this edition of Bruins Weekly, the Black and Gold finally get two signature wins on their resume for the 2021-22 season, Matt Grzelcyk has a historic night, two prospects chipped in on the road trip, more players placed into COVID-19 protocols, injuries and more.
Bruins Get Signature Road Wins
Through the first 30 games of the season, the Bruins had yet to secure a signature win on their resume. That all changed Saturday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning and Monday against the Washington Capitals.
Playing a second consecutive game with top defensemen Charlie McAvoy, out with an injury, the Bruins jumped out to a 4-0 lead over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, then held off a third-period rally from the Lightning for a 5-2 victory. What made the win even more impressive was that prospect Urho Vaakanainen took McAvoy’s spot in the lineup and played on the right-side, his off-side, and played well. He finished with 16:06 of time-on-ice for the game and over two minutes of time killing penalties, while also assisting Brad Marchand’s empty-net goal in the third period.
Against the Capitals Monday night, Boston fell behind 2-0 in the first period, but scored seven of the game’s final eight goals for a 7-3 win. Two goals from Marchand and Pastrnak each, with one goal each Erik Haula, Craig Smith, and Grzelcyk. Yes, Washington is slumping at 0-2-2 in their last four games, but it should not take away anything from an undermanned Black and Gold team that found out before faceoff that Connor Clifton and Derek Forbort were entering the league’s COVID-19 protocols. It was an impressive two-game trip with four huge points collected for the standings.
Grzelcyk’s Historic Night
In the Bruins’ win over the Capitals, Grzelcyk had a goal and four assists to pace the Bruins offense. His goal broke a 2-2 tie in the second period and gave the Bruins the lead for good. It was a big contribution from the 5-foot-9 defensemen and was needed. The five-point night was the first from a Bruins defenseman since Ray Bourque did it on Jan. 2, 1994, against the Capitals.
“Just as it’s happening, you just kind of shake your head,” Grzelcyk said. “I was just laughing during the game because I’ve felt good about my game most of the year. Points have been a little bit hard to come by. It’s something that I don’t really worry about but at the same time, my job is to add in offensively, so it is frustrating when you don’t see the puck go in the net when you’re on the ice. You just kind of laugh. Everything just sort of fell into place.”
Not know much for his offensive game, Grzelcyk was the Bruins’ best defenseman that night. He had a good skating game, while playing one of his better offensive games of the season and they needed each point.
Steen & Blidh Playing Big Roles
With injuries and COVID-19 protocols again an issue for the Bruins, they are getting some key contributions and production from some of their prospects. Not only did Vaakanainen fill a big void against the Lightning with McAvoy sidelined, but Oskar Steen and Anton Blidh played a part in the win as well.
With the Bruins up 3-0 in the second period, Steen took control of the puck in the offensive end from Lightning defensemen Cal Foote, who made a pass to Blidh who beat Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy with a wrist shot inside the near post. The play did not go unnoticed by his coach on what turned out to be a big goal with the third-period onslaught from Lightning.
“With Blidh’s goal, we win a puck in the neutral zone, we win a puck inside the zone, Steen uses his body; there was a lot of those little plays that – maybe not fancy plays – but little plays that we did well.”Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy
Not only did Blidh chip in with his goal, but he finished with three shots on the net and even got some time on the penalty kill. Steen has a goal and four assists this season in seven games with a plus/minus of plus-4. He is making the case each game to solidify a spot in the bottom six.
Injuires and COVID-19 Protocols Continue to Mount
In the win over Tampa Bay, Nick Foligno was injured in the first period and did not return with what the team called a lower-body injury. Foligno missed the game against the Capitals, but he was not the only one. Forbort and Clifton were both placed into COVID-19 protocols before the game, but Trent Frederic was lost in the game with an upper-body injury.
Karson Kuhlman returned to the lineup against Washington, replacing Foligno in the lineup. When Boston returns home, they hope to get Jake DeBrusk back, who has been in COVID-19 protocols and did not make the two-game trip.
Bruins Continue Streak
With their early lead and victory over the Lightning, the Bruins improved to 16-0-0 when leading by two or more goals at any point in the season. Considering how up and down the first three months of the season have been, the fact that the Bruins have had at least a two-goal lead in 16 games was surprising.
Home Sweet Home for Bruins
When the Bruins host the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night at the TD Garden, they begin a seven-game homestead over the next 12 days. The schedule certainly will not be easy with upcoming games against the Carolina Hurricanes, Anaheim Ducks, and Capitals to name a few teams.
The next game for the Black and Gold away from the TD Garden is Jan. 26 against the Colorado Avalanche, which kicks off a three-game road trip that also includes games against the Arizona Coyotes and Dallas Stars. It’s safe to say that the Bruins have a chance to collect some important points in the Eastern Conference standings during the next stretch of home games.
The Week Ahead
- Wednesday: vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.
- Thursday: vs. Philadelphia Flyers, 7 p.m.
- Saturday: vs. Nashville Predators, 1 p.m.
- Tuesday: vs. Carolina Hurricanes, 7 p.m.
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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.