Boston Bruins

Apr 26, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Captains, Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) and Florida Panthers center Aleksander Barkov (16) battle for the puck on a face-off during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

  • The Bruins, like everyone else in the league, are still getting their skates wet on the 2022-23 season.

    But ready or not, the team’s first real test is here, as the Bruins will welcome the reigning Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers to town in a Monday night showdown at TD Garden.

    “They have a balance of really good offense, transition, like they had last year,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said of the Panthers. “Five guys are going on any turnovers. And I think Paul [Maurice] has brought a lot more checking to their team’s mentality.”

    Another player who’s boosted the Panthers’ mentality, of course, is Matthew Tkachuk.

    Acquired from Calgary in exchange for winger Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, the 6-foot-2 Tkachuk has gotten off to a strong start in Sunrise, with two goals and an assist through two games.

    Tkachuk, who enters play with four goals and 10 points in 10 career games against the Bruins, is a rare breed, and the Bruins know it.

    “[Tkachuk] pulls people into the fight,” Montgomery said. “He’s a talented offensive player, but he has that compete level that he brings other people into the battle with him. He’s someone you gotta be aware of, not only for the defensive side of your game, but you also gotta be aware of him and how he can disrupt games with the momentum he brings with him.”

    That, of course, is in addition to the Panthers’ already strong offensive cast featuring Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, and Carter Verhaeghe among others.

  • NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 03: Dan Renouf #44 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on October 03, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 03: Dan Renouf #44 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center on October 03, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • And the Bruins will look to play the role of stopper with yet another loss from their backend, as Brandon Carlo has landed on the shelf indefinitely with an upper-body injury.

    That, with Anton Stralman still unavailable due to visa issues, will throw veteran depth defenseman Dan Renouf up from Providence and into action for his Bruins debut, and give the Bruins a defensive mix featuring five lefties and just one righty (Connor Clifton).

    “You like having people on their strong side,” Montgomery admitted. “It’s easier to see all through the whole ice, right? Your body’s turned to receive a pass, you’re cutting yourself up from the easiest pass, which is up north. It provides its challenges, but we think it’s the right D-core to help us win tonight.”

    The Bruins’ call to the lefty Renouf over right-shooting defensemen such as Kai Wissmann and Connor Carrick came with the Bruins not only liking Renouf’s camp, but also feeling that the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Renouf was the closest to replicating Carlo in terms of his ability to be a stay-at-home defenseman who can chip in with some puck movement the other way.

    Renouf reports back to the Big B’s with three assists, along with 27 hits and five blocks, in 23 NHL contests between the Avalanche and Red Wings.

    On the lineup front, Carlo’s loss will be Mike Reilly’s gain, as the Bruins plan to begin the night with Reilly moved to his off side opposite Hampus Lindholm on the Black and Gold’s top pairing. That will keep Clifton with Derek Forbort, and put Renouf on a pairing with Jakub Zboril.

  • WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals during the first period of the game at Capital One Arena on October 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 12: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Capitals during the first period at Capital One Arena on October 12, 2022. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

  • And with their defense down another body, the Bruins will have to hope that the offensive success of the team remains there, with the B’s 11 goals through two games just one behind Pittsburgh for the most in the NHL.

    It’s been a balanced attack for the Bruins, too, with 10 different goal scorers on the board through 120 minutes of hockey, and with the team averaging 36.5 shots per game (sixth-most in hockey).

    That said, Montgomery wants his offense to find that next level, particularly when it comes to their puck-possession game in the offensive zone, and from his top-six forward grouping.

    “I mean, I think the third and fourth line did an excellent job [Saturday], they’re doing that,” Montgomery said. “They were connected on the strong side of the ice, and then once we got possession, they spread out. The other two lines gotta get connected initially before they spread out, they’re spreading out a little too quickly.”

    The Bruins are expected to begin the night with Craig Smith on the right side of the Black and Gold’s first line with Patrice Bergeron and Taylor Hall, while Pavel Zacha will skate to the left of David Krejci and David Pastrnak. The Bruins did flip those right wingers last Saturday, and while Montgomery didn’t rule out doing it again, he cited the Zacha-Krejci-Pastrnak’s performance in DC as his vote of confidence for Monday night.

  • WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 12: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins attempts to make a save as the puck hits the top crossbar against the Washington Capitals during the second period of the game at Capital One Arena on October 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

    WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 12: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins attempts to make a save as the puck hits the top crossbar against the Capitals during the second period at Capital One Arena on October 12, 2022. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

  • The Bruins are expected to turn to Linus Ullmark for this contest.

    The 6-foot-5 Ullmark stopped 33-of-35 shots faced in a 5-2 win over the Capitals on Opening Night, and went 2-1-0 with a .915 save percentage in three head-to-heads with the Panthers last season.

    Florida will counter with Sergei Bobrovsky. ‘Bob’ is coming off a season debut that included stops on all but one of the 33 shots thrown his way in a 3-1 win over the Islanders.

    This will be one of four showdowns between the Bruins and Panthers in 2022-23.