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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Bruins will do just fine without their superstars

Charlie+Coyle+plays+for+Team+USA+in+2012.
Charlie Coyle plays for Team USA in 2012. Photo sourced from Resolute via Wikimedia Commons.

It’s spooky season, and with the way they’ve been playing, it feels as if it’s scarier to go up against the offense of the big, bad Bruins than it is to find yourself in the midst of a staring contest with a bruin in the woods. The Boston Bruins’ 2022–2023 season is underway and there’s no turning back —even in their vulnerable position of playing without superstar winger Brad Marchand and top defensemen Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk and now, after an injury in their home opener against the Arizona Coyotes, Brandon Carlo (1). With their absence from the team, the Bruins knew their core of inexperienced players and aging stars had to step up their game after losing four of their top players to injuries, and boy did they do just that.

The Bruins ripped off a three-game winning streak to begin the season in impressive fashion, including a statement win over last year’s President’s Trophy winner Florida Panthers (2). However, they showed they were mortal after dropping their fourth game of the season to the Ottawa Senators in a 7–5 barnburner (2), which in turn ended their quest for an 82–0 campaign. Fans will look back on this game and reminisce on “what could’ve been.”

Despite the ongoing buzz of the Bruins potentially having struggles on both offense and defense, more notably regarding the consistency of the bottom six forwards and defensive pairs, the team looked sharp until their first loss of the season. But even after handing Ottawa the first win of their campaign, the Bruins were able to turn their game around and play great hockey again in last Thursday’s 2–1 shootout win over the not-so-mighty Ducks of Anaheim (4). It was also the return of Matt Grzelcyk, who replaced new pickup Anton Stralman in the lineup. Stralman sported a -2 +/- to begin his tenure with the Bruins after he made his season debut against Ottawa.

After five games and four wins into the season for the Bruins, it looks like the team will be just fine for the time being and will only improve on last year’s run that saw them get bounced by the Carolina Hurricanes—bring back the Hartford Whalers—in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Many new faces have adapted well to the system brought upon by another new face,head coach Jim Montgomery,and the Bruins’ high goal scoring output proves the point in case.

The Bruins have now scored 23 goals in their five regular season games, with 21 of them coming in the first four games, a feat they have not accomplished in 35 years (5). Their red-hot offense, backed up by Linus Ullmark standing on his head in his first three starts, has helped them to sit atop the stacked Atlantic division. You know, the same division that already consists of a superstar filled Leafs team—losers since ‘68; an improved and elite Florida Panthers bunch that brought in phenom and second-generation NHL stud Matthew Tkachuk—losers since their inauguration; and a Tampa Bay Lightning team that has appeared in three straight Stanley Cup finals.

Bruins fans shouldn’t get too comfortable too quickly, or should they? There are still far too many games left to be played, and too many inconsistencies to be worked on before the Bruins are in the driver’s seat. The dismal goaltending of second year player Jeremy Swayman is something to keep an eye on as time goes forward, given he’s let nine goals go by him in five periods of play. However, Swayman’s awful outing against Ottawa is not entirely his fault either; the depleted defense that played without their top three defensemen can be a point of criticism too. Even still, there were some positive takeaways from their loss, and that is the grit and resilience of the Bruins, which also coexists with the potency of their offensive attack.

The Bruins once trailed the game 3–0 during the first period, but were able to come back and tie the game at three after scoring all three goals in under five minutes, with newcomer A.J. Greer notably tying the game up with his third goal of the season. They also nearly came back from a second three goal deficit after they scored two more goals to finish the second period trailing only 6–5 (6). Nonetheless, the Bruins loss is only reflective of their defensive struggles due to their injury plagued core, whereas their offense shined once again with contribution from all…except for the defensemen.

All four offensive lines clicked once again, and with a prospect pool that—although being ranked near the bottom of the league in potential—has many NHL ready prospects, the Bruins have been able to mix and match their bottom six forwards, and it has paid dividends for them thus far. The emergence of A.J. Greer and Jakub Lauko, who notably “scored” his first goal against the Coyotes—which was waived off due to “goalie interference” (7)—has been essential to the team’s success.  The recent callup of Jack Studnicka for the Bruins’ game against the Ducks can help revitalize a fourth line that has surprisingly done well by replacing an inconsistent Thomas Nosek, and an aging Nick Foligno, who will likely soon fall back down to Earth after having a nice stretch of games to begin the season (8).

Through five games of the season, the Bruins are a force to be reckoned with. Though the wheels may start falling off the wagon at some point and the players will go through some slumps, it’s nice to see the team playing above the standards that many would set them at, which would be a middle of the pack team with a high likelihood of having a lower seed in the playoffs.

With the chemistry the team has developed under Montgomery, the Bruins have drawn comparisons to the infamous 1978 team that saw 11 20-goal scorers play for the black and gold that year, as the team began the year with 11 goals from 10 players, further showing the all around team-oriented scheme the Bruins have integrated into their play (9).

The Bruins have a very long season ahead of them, and it will be a real struggle staying as the top dog of the division. With the position they are in now and the chances they have with developing the younger players, the Bruins struck diamonds with A.J. Greer, Jakub Lauko, Johnny Beecher and Marc McLaughlin, and may start playing with fire by hindering their development if they keep them from playing every night.

If there’s a perfect time to give the prospects time to play, now would be the best time to utilize that strategy. If the team, and more importantly the offense, stays clicking by the time Marchand, McAvoy and Carlo return, those big, bad Bruins will only improve on the hot start they had to kick off the season with the return of their top defensemen and arguably, most prolific scorer. By then, maybe it would be time to sit pretty as a Bruins fan.

  1. Jim Montgomery Gives Positive Update On Brandon Carlo (nesn.com)

  2. Bruins panthers – Search (bing.com)

  3. bruins senators – Search (bing.com)

  4. Bruins ducks – Search (bing.com)

  5. Boston Bruins Goal Scoring At All-Time High Rate to Start 2022-23 Season | bruinsinsider.com

  6. 3 takeaways from the Bruins’ self-inflicted loss to the Senators (msn.com)

  7. (1) Boston Bruins on Twitter: “Jakub Lauko scores his first NHL goal but it’s waved off for “goalie interference.”” / Twitter

  8. nick foligno stats – Search (bing.com)

The Bruins’ egalitarian scoring is reminiscent of the memorable 1977-78 ‘Lunch Pail A.C.’ squad – The Boston Globe

About the Contributor
Nick Collins, Sports Editor