Bruins’ Zacha Providing Solid Trade Return Early in 2022-23

When the Boston Bruins acquired Pavel Zacha from the New Jersey Devils on July 13 for Erik Haula, general manager (GM) Don Sweeney finally landed a player he had been trying to acquire at the last couple of trade deadlines. The sixth overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft, Zacha never really broke out with consistency in New Jersey, but the Black and Gold were hoping they could get the best out of him in a different environment.

Through the first 21 games of the 2022-23 season, the Bruins have to like so far the return they got in the trade. Zacha has provided depth at multiple positions, he has filled different roles in the top nine, and even though the season is at the first quarter mark, he is on pace for a career year with his production. He is just one of many reasons why Boston is off to one of the best starts in the league.

Zacha Fleability Has Been Vital Early in 2022-23

Before the season started, I wrote about how Zacha’s flexibility was just what first-year coach Jim Montgomery needed to be able to play both wing and center. Brad Marchand missed the beginning of the season recovering from double hip surgery last spring, which left a huge hole in the top six on the left side. That’s where Zacha came in. He has played alongside Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk on the top line, while also playing on the second line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak.

Pavel Zacha Boston Bruins
Pavel Zacha, Boston Bruins (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Things changed on Oct. 27 when Krejci suffered an upper-body injury against the Detroit Red Wings, which left a hole behind Bergeron up the middle on the second line. Zacha was moved to the middle by Montgomery to fill the spot and held the spot down for three games until Krejci returned. 

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Against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 17, Zacha played a big part in the Bruins’ win. He set up the first goal of the game for Tomas Nosek. In the third period, right after the Flyers scored to cut a 2-0 deficit in half, Zacha won a battle for a loose puck in the offensive end, made a one-handed pass behind him with a defenseman draped all over him to Krejci who scored on a breakaway for a 3-1 lead. Zacha has provided Montgomery with flexibility in the top nine this season on the wing and at center.

Zacha Is on Pace for a Career-High Season

In 21 games, Zacha has three goals and 11 assists and if you average that out for an 82-game season, he is on pace for 52 points, which would surpass his career-high of 35 he had in 2021-22. He has been getting an opportunity in all situations. He is part of the second power play unit with a goal and an assist. He also has been a key penalty killer on one of the league’s top units.

Pavel Zacha New Jersey Devils
Bruins forward Pavel Zacha with the New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Zacha has had some strong performances of late including his performance against the Flyers. Against the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 25, he assisted on both of Krejci’s regulation goals in a 3-2 overtime victory, which helped the Black and Gold make history as the first NHL team to begin a season 12-0-0 on home ice. The Bruins are a healthy team with their top nine, but that has not stopped Montgomery from moving Zacha around. Taylor Hall was recently moved down from the second line to the third line with Trent Frederic and Charlie Coyle, which elevated Zacha with Krejci and Pastrnak.

There is a long way to go in this season, but the returns from the trade have been as good as the Bruins hoped they would be. Zacha has helped ease the lineup hole if an injury in the top nine occurs and he has been strong in all situations that Mongtomery puts him in. He is another player that will be a free agent this upcoming offseason and force yet another tough decision on the front office.

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