By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
One down, 55 to go. The Bruins picked up two points in their season-opening win over the Devils, and Ty Anderson has covered plenty of it right here at 985TheSportsHub.com. But let’s empty out the notebook real quick with some observations from last night and for the big-picture…
— Good thing the Bruins have Tuukka Rask. We saw what life without Rask was like in the bubble, and if they had Jaroslav Halak or (God forbid) someone else in net Thursday night, do they even get to overtime? Rask’s ability to show up and perform in the playoffs is an entirely different discussion and a more fair one. But the guy doesn’t suck. He’s a very good goaltender. Considering the Bruins’ current situation in goal, with no long-term replacements or short-term answers in the organization, calling for Rask to be moved is calling for them to suck.
— The Devils are still not good. Jack Hughes looks like he’s still not quite ready to take over as a true franchise center. He should get there eventually but he’s not there yet. So it’s hard to tell just how good the Bruins are going to be defensively, until they play a deeper, more talented opponent. But they did pass the eye test and we at least know they will hold up against inferior opponents.
— So far, so good for Jakub Zboril. The 2015 first-round pick finally has a legitimate opportunity to play a regular role in the Bruins’ lineup, and he looks like he has a chance to be a solid third-pairing guy. He was aggressive with the puck and avoided glaring mistakes. If he plays that style consistently, points will start to come. The Bruins had a very good 62.07 percent Corsi-For rate with Zboril on the ice (18-11 shot attempt advantage) in all situations. Zboril won’t play against top lines or in pure defensive situations, so as long as they keep protecting him in that way and let him be more active offensively, he has a chance to thrive in his current role.
— Hit-and-miss night for Jeremy Lauzon. We may eventually see a switch between him and Matt Grzelcyk in the defensive pecking order. On paper he seems like a logical fit for Charlie McAvoy’s left side, and maybe they just need time to build chemistry. But the net-front defense wasn’t always there for Lauzon, and if he’s going to keep playing on the top pairing he needs to be more consistent in that area. Nikita Gusev nearly burned him on a power play and he let Kyle Palmieri gain position behind him in Tuukka Rask’s grill on the game-tying goal in the third period.
— It was good to see Lauzon get an opportunity on the first penalty, but in the second period we already saw Kevan Miller switch with him on that unit. This was a concern that Ty and I expressed in the newest SideLines podcast. How long of a leash are the young defensemen going to have? Perhaps they go right back to Lauzon on PK1 in the next game and this was just a one-nigh in-game adjustment, since Miller was a ball of fire in his first game in a long time. But if Lauzon gets buried in favor of the veterans, we’re going to be left wondering what the hell the Bruins are trying to accomplish this year.
— Speaking of Miller, though, the Bruins missed a guy like him in the last two playoff runs and he showed why. They absolutely could have used Miller against the Blues in 2019 and against bigger teams in general, with his element of size and strength on the backend. If he holds up physically, he’ll be an asset against teams that have exploited the Bruins’ lack of size in recent years.
— The Bruins power play should still be potent without Torey Krug. Both goals came on the man advantage (which may speak to continued concerns at 5-on-5, but that’s another story) as Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci controlled the action in those situations. Matt Grzelcyk is no Krug when it comes to the PP, but as long as he’s protecting the puck and getting it to the Bruins’ playmakers down low, the first unit should still be very dangerous. And they did this without the threat of David Pastrnak.
— There were small glimpses of where the Bruins may take a step back without Krug. Grzelcyk is being counted on to play a lot of the roles that Krug did, and he doesn’t have Krug’s level of finish – at least not right now. He joined the rush with Bergeron and Marchand in the second period and had the puck on his stick in the slot, but appeared to try a backhand pass instead of firing away. Grzelcyk had a solid game overall, but Krug’s creativity and firepower will be missed at times on the backend.
— Trent Frederic, a last-minute replacement for the injured Craig Smith, was active and assertive in ways that a fourth-line forward needs to be. He mucked it up in the corners and showed some muscle. He was second on the team in Corsi-For percentage when on the ice (13-4 shot attempts, 76.5 percent). So it looks like the Bruins are still going to have a strong fourth line, especially when Frederic is out there. It’ll be interesting to see how they look with Anders Bjork in Frederic’s spot – probably not as strong.
Listen to Matt Dolloff and Ty Anderson preview the 2020-21 Bruins in the newest episode of the SideLines podcast.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at email@example.com.