The beat continues to go on for the 2022-23 Boston Bruins. In the last seven days, they went a perfect four-for-four, outscoring their opponents, 17-3, and after dropping their first two games of their five-game road trip in disappointing fashion, they won the final three games to right the ship.
In this edition of Bruins Weekly for The Hockey Writers, a prospect makes a case for more playing time, a goalie has a perfect week, a bitter rival makes a visit to Boston and more.
Jakub Zboril Makes Most of Opportunity
When the Bruins closed out the five-game road trip against the Buffalo Sabres on March 19, defenseman Jakub Zboril found his way into the lineup. Since acquiring Dmitry Orlov from the Washington Capitals on Feb. 23, coach Jim Montgomery has rotated defensemen in and out of the lineup, but Zboril has never been part of the rotation. That changed when Derek Forbort suffered a lower-body injury in the third game of the trip against the Winnipeg Jets on March 16.
Forbort blocked a Neil Pionk shot in the second period and left the arena in a walking boot. Against the Sabres and on a back-to-back, Montgomery decided to work Orlov into the rest rotation and that allowed Zboril to play in just his third game since the New Year. In 18:34 in time on ice, he picked up an assist on the third pairing with Connor Clifton and played his best game of the previous 15 he had played in this season.
“I think you have to give him a great, tremendous amount of credit because his attitude’s been phenomenal,” said Montgomery. “He comes to the rink every day to maintain the conditioning so that when he gets in, he’s able to go in and play like he did tonight. We’re going to be able to play him a lot more down the stretch.”
Boston has a big lead in the standings with the regular season coming to a close on April 13 and the defensive rotation is going to be continuing. Zboril should get more opportunities down the stretch to be in the lineup and the 13th overall pick from the 2015 Entry Draft has been patiently waiting for his chance and will now get it.
Swayman Earns Well-Deserved Honor
What a week for Jeremy Swayman in his final two starts on the five-game road trip. The Bruins No. 2 goalie recorded back-to-back shutouts against the Jets and Sabres to help the Black and Gold finish the trip at 3-2-0, good enough to earn him the NHL’s Third Star of the Week.
His best performance of the two was in Winnipeg where he stopped all 36 shots he faced in a 3-0 win. Swayman made 13 saves in the first period, 11 in the second, and 12 in the third. He was also staked to an early 1-0 lead just 50 seconds into the game on a Trent Frederic goal. Against Buffalo, he once again was given an early 1-0 lead when Patrice Bergeron scored just 15 seconds into the game in a 7-0 win. Swayman turned back 26 Sabres’ shots, with his busiest period the first with 11 saves.
Swayman is 18-6-4 this season with a 2.20 goals against average (GAA) and a .920 save percentage (SV%). He now has four shutouts in 30 appearances in 2022-23. A big part of the Bruins’ success this season has been their goaltending duo and Linus Ullmark was just as impressive in a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on March 18 on the trip with 26 saves, many from the high-danger area with the game in doubt.
Bruins Host Canadiens for Only Time In 2022-23
It’s hard to believe, but the Bruins are only playing the Montreal Canadiens three times this season instead of four as they do with other divisional opponents. The first game was played in Montreal on Jan. 24 and the Black and Gold skated away with a 4-2 victory. The second and only TD Garden meeting takes place Thursday night (March 23).
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The Canadiens are going to miss the playoffs once again, but with the young stockpile of talent they have, they are not too far from competing in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. They are just two seasons removed from a Stanley Cup Final appearance in the shortened 2020-21, where they lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Former Bruins assistant general manager (GM) Jeff Gorton is the Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations and GM Kent Hughes is building Montreal backup.
The two teams will close out the regular season on April 13 in Montreal in a game where the Boston lineup could very well look like a Providence Bruins American Hockey League (AHL) lineup.
Montgomery Moving Up First-Year Coaching Wins Ranks
What a first 70 games it has been behind the bench for Montgomery in his first season in Boston. In the Bruins’ 2-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on March 22, he moved to third on the NHL list for wins by a coach in his first season with the franchise.
Montgomery has an excellent chance to climb to the top of the list before the regular season ends. He is three wins behind former Bruins coach Tom Johnson who reached his feat in the 1970-71 season and needs five wins to pass Mike Babcock when he was with the Detroit Red Wings in the 2005-06 season.
Bruins Week Ahead
- Thursday: vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.
- Saturday: vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, 1 p.m.
- Sunday: at Carolina Hurricanes, 5 p.m.
- Tuesday: vs. Nashville Predators, 7 p.m.