Boston Bruins

  • It took Jakub Lauko just 12:45 of ice time on Saturday night to match a third of his goal-scoring production (three goals) in 54 games with the P-Bruins last season.

    Even in a losing effort, that had to feel good.

    It’s been a long time since we’ve revved up the ol’ Lauko Hype Train — or is it a Laukomotive? — and it seems like the Bruins themselves want to change that. Prior to Saturday night in Philly, the Bruins had stapled the 2018 third-round pick to the left of fellow countrymen David Krejci and David Pastrnak. It’s definitely not going to be his spot come Opening Night (the Bruins have that spot reserved for Taylor Hall), but it’s a major change from keeping Lauko on what would be the sixth or seventh line.

    This will be a key to watch under Jim Montgomery.

    Speaking earlier this week, Montgomery provided a glimpse into his mindset when it came to putting younger players with experienced, skill players.

    “I think it’s important that you give the players you think have the potential to play in those spots, the opportunity to play in those spots,” Montgomery said. “Because if we put them with fourth-line players, maybe they don’t get to see what they can do as far as making plays.”

    That quote was in reference to putting 2021 first-round pick Fabian Lysell with Patrice Bergeron, but the same logic comes when talking about a player like Lauko. While a potential Boston start would likely come with Lauko working his way up from the Bruins’ bottom-six group, repairing some obviously-damaged confidence after a three-goal, minus-28 season in the minors comes with making him feel like he can still be an offensive threat for the organization.

    Saturday was a great first step in that regard. In addition to the goal, Lauko landed four shots on goal (second-most among all Boston forwards, and with almost no power-play ice time), and was even credited with four hits and a blocked shot by the night’s end.

    Now comes building off it, and getting that hype train back on the tracks after a two-year detour.

  • Jakub Zboril shines on Boston backend

    UNIONDALE, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 25: Jakub Zboril #67 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on February 25, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 25: Jakub Zboril #67 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on February 25, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    But wait, there’s more Jakub-related praise!

    In what was his first NHL game since tearing his ACL last December, B’s defenseman Jakub Zboril looked more than OK. In fact, you could say he looked even better than the last time we saw him. Now, the obvious caveat here is that the Flyers did not ice what you’d call their organizational best.

    But when it came to Zboril, it was more important to see how he was moving and how confident he was out there both with and without the puck on his stick.

    The Bruins have been impressed with what they’ve seen from No. 67 in the opening days of camp, and they haven’t hid from the fact that Zboril is going to play an important role for this club in 2022-23 as a defenseman that can play both the left and right side. That’s doubly important with both Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy expected to miss the first month and a half of the season.

    One thing you’ve heard a lot with Boston’s defense corps out of the gate: “Driving.” The Bruins basically want every single one of their defensemen to feel as if they can take offensive chances and drive a pairing with their instincts and eventually their muscle memory. That’s going to be a work in progress for a few of the Black and Gold’s defenders, and I’d probably include Zboril in that group. If Saturday was a preview of what’s to come though, there’s no doubt the coaching and video sessions are working.

  • Lack of finishing touch headlines losing effort

    Sep 24, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Troy Grosenick (29) makes a save against Boston Bruins left wing Nick Foligno (17) during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 24, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Troy Grosenick (29) makes a save against Boston Bruins left wing Nick Foligno (17) at Wells Fargo Center. (Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

    The Bruins probably should’ve had more than a single goal to their name.

    I mean, six power-play opportunities (and 15 shots on goal over the course of that six-opportunity sample) alone speaks to that. And NaturalStatTrick had them at 3.49 expected goals (all situations), so yeah, there should have been more on the board. So while you tip your hat to the Flyers’ tandem of Felix Sandstrom and ex-P-Bruins netminder Troy Grosenick, there’s no doubt that the Black and Gold’s familiar and still frustrating lack of finish led to their downfall in this one.

    Up front, Vinni Lettieri led the way with five shots on goal, while Lauko finished with four. But the misses around the net front were especially bothersome, especially from some veteran presences. You can live with Fabian Lysell having a slight hesitation on his power-play chance, but Tomas Nosek (ended his year on a 50-game goalless drought) and Nick Foligno simply couldn’t buy a goal. It’s an important camp for both players, and while this is just one game (I can’t stress this enough), you have to wonder how long the Bruins can live with the donuts and near-goals if others are producing.

  • Other thoughts and notes…

    Sep 24, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Bruins left wing A.J. Greer (10) and Philadelphia Flyers right wing Hayden Hodgson (42) fight during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 24, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Bruins left wing A.J. Greer (10) and Philadelphia Flyers right wing Hayden Hodgson (42) fight during the second period at Wells Fargo Center. (Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports)

    …As it relates to the B’s fourth line, I’m really wondering how strong of a grip Nosek has on a roster spot. In the final year of a $1.75 million per year contract, Nosek started camp on a line with Joey Abate and Vinni Lettieri. Neither one of those players is expected to be on the NHL roster this year. If history is any indication, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for Nosek’s standing with the club.

    One thing that is helping Nosek, you’d think, is his status as a left-shooting center/faceoff option. The Bruins don’t really have a ton of those on their roster. Left-shooting wingers like Brad Marchand and Nick Foligno can take faceoffs when necessary, but it’s probably not exactly what you’d consider a preference, especially if it’s do-or-die time with the B’s looking for a key win late. Trent Frederic is a left shot and a natural center, but he lost 61.7 percent of his faceoffs last year.

    So this is when you wonder about a guy like Johnny Beecher. A left-handed center, Beecher’s faceoff prowess was one of the first things Jim Montgomery mentioned when analyzing his game. Beecher performed admirable on that front Saturday night (he won 11-of-19 draws), but the Bruins may prefer giving him top-six minutes in Providence out of the gate instead of sticking him on their fourth line.

    Just somethin’ to watch.

    …The Bruins may have some tough decisions as a whole when it comes to their fourth line.

    Chris Wagner, who spent all but one game in the AHL last year in a money-saving move, has been playing with his head on fire since camp opened. He’s had some big hits throughout camp (he tagged Michael Callahan with a whopper Friday), and carried that into Saturday’s game, with a game-high eight hits and a penalty drawn in just under 16 minutes of action.

    Listen, I know the easy thing to do is to simply waive him down to the minors, save the pennies, and embrace the youth movement, but if a player is showing that he belongs and is doing whatever he can to stick around, what kind of message would such a move send to the room? If you’re asking me right now, Wagner has done more to stick than a Jack Studnicka or an Oskar Steen.

    At the end of the day, I’m all for a youth movement (especially with the organizational uncertainty around the bend), but the players who are part of that movement need to grab the bull by the horns at a certain point and show that it’s theirs instead of simply coasting into a roster spot.

    … Another player making things interesting: A.J. Greer.

    Signed by the B’s after a point-per-game season in the AHL in 2021-22, the 6-foot-3 Greer has shown some serious pop in camp. He moves extremely well for a man his size, and it’s been interesting to watch him just pounce on Boston defensemen during drills.

    “I like [Greer],” Montgomery told me earlier this week. “I like the speed. I like the fact that he’s playing aggressive and he’s on top pucks. And he can really wire the puck, too.”

    Greer brought some of that aggression to Saturday’s opener in Philly, and dropped the gloves with the Flyers’ Hayden Hodgson after Hodgson hit Zboril hit along the boards.

    … Hey Siri, what does it look like when it’s your first appearance after the Bruins brought in another right-handed defenseman to compete against you for a depth role on the team?

    OK, thank you!

    … The Bruins will be off on Sunday. They’ll return to the ice Monday morning, with sessions scheduled for 10 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. at Warrior Ice Arena. Their next game will come Tuesday night at TD Garden when they play host to the New York Rangers.