It was a short week in terms of games for the Boston Bruins with two, but it was not short on storylines. In this edition of Bruins Weekly, two former Nashville Predators have an enjoyable return, a new-look first-line played well, and more.
Bruins Win Smith and Haula’s Return to Nashville
When the Bruins hit the road on Dec. 2 for their game at Nashville, it was a return for Craig Smith and Erik Haula to face their former team. Both players spent time with the Predators, Smith from 2011-12 through 2019-20 and Haula played the 56-game shortened season 2020-21 season.
Smith was drafted 98th overall in the fourth round of the 2019 Entry Draft by the Predators and he is sixth on the franchise list with points with 330. In his nine seasons in Nashville, Smith tallied 162 goals and 168 assists. Haula had nine goals and 12 assists in 51 games last season for the Predators. Smith got a tribute from the home team during a TV timeout in the first period.
It was a good homecoming for both players as they each picked up an assist in the Bruins 2-0 victory. Smith had the primary assist on Jake DeBrusk’s first-period power-play goal and Haula set up Brandon Carlo for a goal 25 seconds into the second period. Boston is hoping that both players can start producing more this season.
Hall Shines in Place of Marchand
Brad Marchand was handed a three-game suspension for slew-footing Oliver Ekman-Larsson in Boston’s 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 28. In his absence on the first line, Taylor Hall moved up next to Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. The trio played well together, creating scoring chances both even strength and on the power play.
Last season after being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline, Hall thrived next to David Krejci as his center. This summer, Krejci announced he was going to continue his career in the Czech Republic, which has left Charlie Coyle as Hall’s center on the second line. Coyle has not played bad, but putting a play-making center next to Hall seemed to add a jump in his play.
When Marchand returns from his suspension against the Canucks, he will be slotted back with Bergeron and Pastrnak, which is the right move. Hall has proven that if you put a play-making center next to him, he is a different player and the locker room is hoping that general manager Don Sweeney is taking note.
Haula Playing Better Since Healthy Scratch
It was an eventful night to say the least against the Canucks on Nov. 28. Not only was it Marchand’s slew-footing incident, but coach Bruce Cassidy made Haula and DeBrusk healthy scratches. Haula has played better in the last three games since being scratched, both offensively, defensively and he has been better with his skating game.
In the Bruins 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Dec. 4, Haula set up Coyle for a second-period goal with a nifty pass between his legs across the slot. One of three left-shot forwards brought in over the offseason by general manager Don Sweeney with Nick Foligno and Tomas Nosek, Haula has played both left-wing and center. The Black and Gold hope Haula’s play continues to get better.
Boston Begins Western Canada Road Trip
The Bruins will begin a three-game road trip through Western Canada with their second game in 10 days against the Canucks. It is a trip that is going to tell us where the Bruins are at with three games in four nights.
Pastrnak and Marchand each scored third-period power-play goals on former teammate and Canucks goalie Jaroslav Halak the come-from-behind win and it also was the game where Marchand received his suspension from the NHL. In his absence, the Bruins went 1-1-1 and collected three out of a possible six points in the standings. The Bruins also play the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers on the trip, two teams to win at the TD Garden in November.
The Bruins announced Tuesday that some members of the team will not be making the trip. Cassidy is still in COVID protocols and Nosek will also stay behind with a non-COVID illness. Coyle and Matt Grzelcyk are also dealing with an illness, but will be traveling with the team.
The Week Ahead
- Wednesday: at Vancouver Canucks, 9 p.m.
- Thursday: at Edmonton Oilers, 9 p.m.
- Saturday: at Calgary Flames, 10 p.m.
- Tuesday: vs. Vegas Golden Knights, 7 p.m.
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.