The Boston Bruins opened their season with back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils. Despite coming out of New Jersey with 3 of 4 possible points, the Bruins did not dominate the young Devils the way they should have. The Bruins narrowly escaped game one with a shootout victory, and dropped the second bout when Yegor Sharangovich buried the game winning goal with 1.7 seconds remaining in overtime. The Bruins defense and goaltending was on point for the majority of these two games, but the offense was eerily quiet.
The Bruins came out strong in the first period Thursday night, outshooting the Devils 16-4. Tuukka Rask made a few great saves on some quality scoring opportunities from the Devils, and the Bruins looked good overall after taking a 1-0 lead into the locker room after the first period. The Bruins controlled play for the most part throughout the second, but couldn’t get back on the board to extend the lead. This would come back to bite them as Miles Wood would score halfway through the period on a breakaway goal. After the Bruins and Devils traded their second goals respectively, the game headed to overtime where Tuukka Rask saved the Bruins multiple times. Brad Marchand would get the shootout winner in the third round.
The Bruins would not be so lucky in the second game. After going down 1-0 in the first period, they fought back with a Patrice Bergeron shorthanded goal. The Bruins looked lackluster throughout the whole game though and weren’t able to put up many quality scoring opportunities. They ended up dropping the game after the defense got caught behind the play and the Devils’ Sharangovich tucked in the overtime winner, just barely beating the clock and handing the Bruins their first loss of the season.
The most apparent issue for the Bruins in their opening games was the issue that has plagued them for years; their depth scoring. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand factored in each goal the team scored, while the rest of the offense was dormant. The big concern was the second line of David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk, and Ondrej Kase. They didn’t make any real impact on the game when they were on the ice together. Krejci had some decent time on the powerplay, but Kase and DeBrusk especially were invisible.
This was a matchup that should have favored the second line as New Jersey is young and lacks depth on the defensive end. The Bruins will need DeBrusk to show up in the future when they play teams that are better than the Devils. DeBrusk’s dry spells have occurred far too often throughout his career and this start is not a good sign for the Bruins. Kase also left the second game with an upper-body injury, which is certainly concerning as the Bruins are counting on him to provide scoring despite his struggles in the first game and a half.
Some positive takeaways from the Bruins trip to New Jersey include the play of forwards Anders Bjork and Trent Frederic. Bjork played the first game in the bottom 6 but looked solid, and was given a promotion to the first line for the second game. If he can elevate his game and play well enough to hang with Bergeron and Marchand, and put up points against other teams top defensive pairings, he can help the Bruins get through this spell without David Pastrnak. Frederic, who hasn’t been able to find traction in the NHL in his young career, looked good playing in the bottom 6. He played a gritty couple of games and was able to get under the skin of some Devils players.
Kevan Miller also looked good in his return to hockey. He played well on the third pairing with Jakub Zboril, who was also solid. Miller brings grit and toughness to the Bruins defense that is lacking in that area with the loss of Zdeno Chara. For the most part the defense looked good, although they allowed far too many breakaway chances for the Devils over both games. They were very well positioned in the defensive zone though and didn’t allow a ton of in tight scoring opportunities.
Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak were both phenomenal. Rask stole the first game for the Bruins and Halak was sturdy the whole second game.
The Bruins will need to improve their offensive play when they face far better teams than the New Jersey Devils this season. They will look to start a new winning streak when they take on the Islanders on Monday.