What to Watch For in the Bruins’ Season Opener

We’ve made it through the long and grueling offseason, surpassed the fun (but not that fun) preseason, and now we’re just days away from the Boston Bruins’ season opener.

The B’s will match up with the Dallas Stars in Boston, and while they’ll certainly be looking to start the season off right, there will be some key takeaways from this game, win or lose. Here’s what we should all be looking for in the Bruins’ season opener on Saturday.

3 Potential Takeaways From the Bruins’ Season Opener

Goaltending Clarity

There are still many question marks regarding the goaltending situation in Boston following the departure of Tuukka Rask this offseason. And although one game won’t make the goaltending path completely clear, it may help us clarify where the trust may lie at the beginning of the season.

Linus Ullmark, who was signed to a four-year deal this past offseason, has looked shaky thus far in the preseason. Ullmark finished with a .834 save percentage (SV%), allowing 10 goals through just three preseason appearances. His previous and rather promising run in Buffalo is long forgotten, and now Ullmark must make up some significant ground to push Swayman away from that starting role. Although the sample size is small, I’m not sure you could’ve seen a shakier start from Ullmark as a Bruin. Thus, the fans, and potentially Bruins management, may sense a goalie controversy looming.

Linus Ullmark Buffalo Sabres
Linus Ullmark, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Rookie sensation Jeremy Swayman has taken Boston by storm over the past year and has now seen his chances to become the B’s starter increase even more. Swayman, who provided some much-needed support through last season’s injury-ridden year, has played himself right into the starting lineup conversation, looking stout in all of his preseason appearances. In his 10 starts last year for the B’s, he posted a 1.50 goals-against average (GAA) and added two shutouts to his stat sheet as well. He’s performed well enough in the preseason to continue his momentum from last year, and Ullmark hasn’t separated himself whatsoever.

I’m not ready to call this a goalie controversy just yet, but there is no question Ullmark’s struggles have narrowed this competition greatly. The Bruins’ season opener will not only reveal who gets the nod on day 1, but an impactful start from either goalie could give them the push they need to claim the starting role.

Related Link: 5 Bruins Standouts From the Preseason

Third Line Chemstry

The projected third line for the Bruins (Jake Debrusk-Erik Haula-Nick Foligno) has the possibility of being an absolute gamechanger for the Bruins this year.

Debrusk swirled in trade rumors all offseason but returns to the Bruins as a capable scorer with top-six production written all over him. Haula has finished the season as a minus player only twice in his career and provides excellent two-way play down the middle. Finally, Foligno gives a net-front presence that Bruins fans have been asking for for years. It truly is the perfect trio of players.

Jake DeBrusk Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While their chemistry will still be developing, the eye test will be very useful in determining how much potential this line truly has. Haula, a natural winger, will center this line and it’ll be interesting to see how the game flows through him when he is on the ice. Haula’s highest level of success came in his stint with Vegas, totaling 55 points in 76 games in the 2018 season. With major scoring potential on both sides of the ice, it will be interesting to see if Haula takes more of a playmaking role on this line, something he hasn’t done his entire career.

It’s not to say we’ll be able to measure the success of a line after just one game, but the Bruins have historically been a team that struggles to maintain a productive third unit. This year, they’ll need to help raise the level of scoring depth and all three of these guys have the tools to do so.

Related Link: 3 Bruins’ Trade Candidates for the 2021-22 Season

McAvoy’s Partner in Crime

The defensive core for the Bruins didn’t undergo the drastic improvements that most Bruins fans wanted, but the addition of Derek Forbort provides some much-needed depth and some significant question marks.

Last season, McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk teamed up to form a top pairing that ended up fairly solid for the B’s. Now, with the acquisition of Forbort, Grzelcyk has almost certainly been relegated.

There’s still a lot of open discussion around who McAvoy should be skating with. On the one hand, you know the chemistry he has with Grzelcyk. You know how well that combination worked last season. Why mess around with it? On the other hand, Forbort is as stay-at-home as they get, which will allow McAvoy to jump up a bit more on the offensive side. With how he’s looked in the past couple of seasons, that’s certainly something you’d like to see.

Charlie McAvoy Boston Bruins
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Forbort will almost certainly start the season with McAvoy. Still, it will be interesting to see if, in the Bruins’ season opener, the separation of Grzelcyk and McAvoy has any significant impact on the rest of the pairings. Forbort can do wonders for McAvoy’s game, but the saying ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ may come back to haunt the B’s.

Pay Close Attention

I think opening night for the Bruins will tell us a lot about this team. There are many new pieces that can significantly impact the roster, not just on the stat sheet but also in other aspects. I think the addition of Nick Foligno adds a much-needed veteran presence, especially with Krejci gone, while the youth of guys like Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka provide a freshness we aren’t used to seeing in Boston.

It’s only one game, I know. But with a newly renovated team like the Bruins, these first few games are even more important to quickly get on the right track. Don’t overreact to a bad goal or a missed shot, but pay attention to those points above. They’ll all have a significant impact on how this team shapes out throughout the season.

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