Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 15: Pavel Zacha #18 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Arizona Coyotes during the first period at TD Garden on October 15, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • Some of you out there are gonna hate to hear this. You’ll be sick and furious, even. Just throwing up and grinding your teeth to bits. But it appears that Bruins general manager and emerging trade specialist Don Sweeney may have done it again.

    Because, man, is Pavel Zacha looking like one hell of a steal for this team.

    Skating in the middle of Boston’s second line as a fill-in for the injured David Krejci for the second straight game Tuesday night against the Islanders, Zacha once again delivered, with two assists on the way to a 4-3 shootout victory. Zacha’s second assist of the night in particular was a thing of beauty, too, as he slammed on the brakes and hit Derek Forbort with an absolutely gorgeous pass (and through two Islander sticks) for the shorthanded goal.

    It’s the kind of passing game that not even Jim Montgomery, who has yet to meet a Bruins skater he did not want to praise and highlight for things that don’t necessarily meet the average eye, saw coming when the B’s added Zacha.

    “I did not know that,” Montgomery admitted when asked if he knew Zacha was this kind of passer. “But having spoken to a couple of coaches that have coached him, they told me that his hockey sense and his vision were really good.”

    Hearing something like that never hurts, as Zacha confirmed.

    “It gives me confidence to play with the puck and to play with the players,” Zacha said of Montgomery’s praise. “And I think we both have to earn each other’s confidence, me with the coaches and the other way around.”

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 17: Pavel Zacha #18 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on October 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 17: Pavel Zacha #18 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on October 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • The two-assist night brought Zacha up to 19 points (three goals and 16 assists) through his first 28 games with the Bruins after seven seasons with the Devils. His 16 helpers are tied with Hampus Lindholm for the second-most on the Bruins (David Pastrnak leads the team, with 20). Zacha’s first 15 even-strength points, meanwhile, rank third among all Boston skaters, trailing only Taylor Hall (18) and Pastrnak (21).

    And forget just Boston, the 25-year-old Zacha has actually emerged as one of the top even-strength producers in all of hockey out of the gate this year.

    Among the group of 250 NHL forwards with at least 300 minutes of even-strength ice time this year, Zacha ranks 56th in points-per-60, at 2.50. That’s more than players such as the Rangers’ Artemi Panarin, Toronto’s John Tavares, and the Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov among countless others. Zacha is also one of just 56 players among that group averaging at least one primary assist per 60, and his 2.17 total assists per 60 is the seventh-best figure among that group of 250.

    “It’s been good, I think,” Zacha said of his passing game. “The guys are coming in [with] speed [and] getting open .. When they’re there [and] they’re open, I’m trying to find them. And so far they’ve been there every time, so it’s been good.”

    Not bad for a guy who’s bounced around the middle six and played both center and wing. Not that Zacha is going to complain about that aspect of his role either. Zacha has repeatedly made it known that it doesn’t necessarily matter where he plays because he knows his role on this team. (That’s something you’ll hear from everybody within that locker room this season, I believe.)

    But for Zacha, it actually feels like that’s the case.

    “Whatever position you play, the trust from the coaches that they can put me on a center on a wing helps my game, [as does] getting more and more ice time and I’m just happy to play there,” Zacha said. “I feel like it’s whatever they need me. I think every line that I play on [has] great players. They could play first or second line on other teams.”

    But Zacha’s as much a part of that as the others he’s citing for his success.

    Through the first third of the 2022-23 season, the Czech-born forward’s longest point drought is three games (twice), and the Bruins are 15-0-0 when he records at least one point. And barring something absolutely unforeseen, he’ll completely shatter his previous career-high of 36 points, which was set in his final season in New Jersey.

    “I’m getting the opportunity to show, finally so it’s been fun to play,” said Zacha.

    Not bad for the return piece in a one-for-one, pump-and-dump trade featuring Erik Haula.

    Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders

  • And now, a filthy shootout move from David Pastrnak…

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 17: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on October 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 17: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on October 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • History confirms that the Bruins are not what you’d consider a good shootout team.

    But hey, if Bruins winger David Pastrnak can reach into this bag of tricks every time the Bruins find themselves in a skills competition, that luck just may turn.

    Just pure filth from No. 88.

    Asked to describe that goal, Montgomery offered a simple-but-effective, “Ooomph.”

    Yeah, man, hard agree.

  • Oh, and another note on the shootout

    Oct 27, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery talks with his players during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 27, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery talks with his players during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

  • Another home-ice shootout, and another decision by Montgomery to shoot first.

    I’m not gonna lie, I’ve always hated this. Pretty sure I’ve bitched about it every time it bites the Bruins in the ass. My natural feeling is that if you’re the home team and you have the option, you want to go second. You always want the chance to walk it off, or at the very least have your last at bat, so to speak.

    But with the data sample extending beyond one game, I had to ask Montgomery what goes into his decision to shoot first. Is it personal preference, or are there some sort of in-house analytics at play here?

    “Well, I always thought it’d be beneficial to go second, and I did that once and we didn’t score a goal,” Montgomery told me. “It seems like if you go and you score that first goal, you really have a huge mental advantage.”

    I’m still Team Shoot Second, but wanna know another mental advantage for the Bruins when it comes to shootout: Linus Ullmark is the best shootout goaltender in league history.

    Among the goaltenders with at least 10 games of shootout experience since the league introduced it in 2005, Ullmark’s .875 save percentage (he’s stopped 42 of 48 shootout attempts) is tops among a group of 120 NHL netminders.

  • It’s time to live your life like Derek Forbort

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 17: Derek Forbort #28 of the Boston Bruins takes a shot against the Florida Panthers during the first period at TD Garden on October 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 17: Derek Forbort #28 of the Boston Bruins takes a shot against the Florida Panthers during the first period at TD Garden on October 17, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

  • You might not see it on the surface, but Bruins defenseman Derek Forbort is a sneaky-great quote.

    It’s just banger after banger after banger. I mean, what he said about his decision to activate into the attacking zone for the shorthanded goal that made it 3-2 Bruins sorta said it all for me.

    “Zacha’s got the puck and he’s such a good passer that I was like, ‘Screw it, may as well keep going’ and he found me and I shot it,” Forbort said of his goal.

    My challenge for you: Do one thing today where you simply go, “Screw it, may as well keep going.” It can be about the biggest burrito you’ve ever seen, another piece of pizza that’s allegedly for the whole office, a video game level, or maybe something that’s even actually good for you. (I’d lean burrito, personally.)

    Live like Forbort, baby.

  • Everything else…

    Dec 13, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas (53) and defenseman Noah Dobson (8) file off the ice after losing in a shootout to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 13, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; New York Islanders center Casey Cizikas (53) and defenseman Noah Dobson (8) file off the ice after losing in a shootout to the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

  • • Nothing to show for it on the scoresheet, but I thought this was an excellent puck-movement game from both Matt Grzelcyk and Hampus Lindholm. When these guys are on, they’re on. And in different styles. I’ve always marveled at how Grzelcyk can work out of a phone booth and with such tight angles, while Lindholm is just borderline impossible to knock off the puck when he gets going. Thought Lindholm made a ton of subtle plays, using both his frame and reach, to keep plays alive in the N.Y. end or shut down plays at the other end.

    • Derek Forbort’s shorthanded goal was the fourth shorthanded goal scored by a Bruins defenseman since the start of last season. They’re the only team in the NHL to have four different shorthanded scorers from the backend over that stretch. The Kraken are directly behind them, however, with three shorthanded scorers from their blue line. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed with the move from Bruce Cassidy to Jim Montgomery.

    • Sticking with the blue line, Brandon Carlo logged under 16 minutes for the second time in his last three outings. Excluding injury-shortened outings, Carlo logged under 16 minutes just two times all of last season, so this feels somewhat notable. It might not worth reading too much into the possession metrics of this game given the way just about every Bruins player found themselves in the red, but the Bruins were out-attempted 21-7 and outshot 8-3 during Carlo’s 14 minutes and change of five-on-five ice time.

    • Feel for A.J. Greer. That’s back-to-back games where Greer has found himself in the box after marginal at best penalties called against him. But that aggressive, in-your-face attitude and physicality has gotta be part of his game for him to be a must-play piece of this lineup. You just hope he starts getting the benefit of the doubt a little bit more here as the intensity ramps up with the Bruins taking every team’s best shot every time out there.

    • Tuesday’s victory makes it five straight home wins over the Islanders for the Bruins. It’s their longest home winning streak over the Islanders since a six-game run that ran from Feb. 2007 to Oct. 2009.

    • Really wish we got to see a Linus Ullmark vs. Ilya Sorokin showdown in this game. These two guys have been absolutely fantastic this season, and this matchup could’ve used that power-on-power showdown.

Sign me up for the 98.5 The Sports Hub email newsletter!

Get the latest Boston sports news and analysis, plus exclusive on-demand content and special giveaways from Boston's Home for Sports, 98.5 The Sports Hub.

*
*
By clicking "Subscribe" I agree to the website's terms of Service and Privacy Policy. I understand I can unsubscribe at any time.