Welcome to the latest edition of the Boston Bruins’ 3 Up, 3 Down for the 2022-23 season. This will be a weekly column released on Mondays chronicling the highs and lows of the previous seven days.
It was another positive week for the Boston Bruins. They won two out of three games and made NHL history in the process. They became the first team in NHL history to begin a season with 12 consecutive wins on home ice and currently hold the top spot in the NHL with an 18-3-0 record.
While there were some positives, there were also some negatives during the week for Boston. Here is the latest 3 Up, 3 Down for the Black and Gold from the last seven days.
Plus One: Bruins Get Two Signature Wins
Even though the Bruins have been the best team in the NHL through the first six weeks, it has come with some outsiders saying that they lacked “signature wins.’’ That narrative changed last week with two wins against two teams that have given them problems in past seasons.
On Nov. 21, they began a two-game road trip in Florida with a 5-3 come-from-behind win over the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning. It was an impressive win for Jim Montgomery’s crew as they were badly outplayed and outshot, 9-0, in the first eight minutes before falling behind on a Nick Paul goal. Late in the opening period, David Krejci scored on a slap shot that got by Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. That started a run with the Bruins scoring five straight goals in the game to build a 5-1 lead and hold on for a 5-3 victory.
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After dropping the second game of the road trip against the Florida Panthers, 5-2, on Nov. 23, the Bruins returned home for their annual Black Friday game against the Carolina Hurricanes, who beat Boston in all three regular-season games last season and in seven games in the first round of the playoffs. After falling behind 2-0 on two first-period Carolina power play goals, once again, the Black and Gold rallied for an overtime victory. Krejci scored late in the second period and then tied the game in the third period, before David Pastrnak scored a power play goal with 1:14 remaining in the extra session for the 12th consecutive win to open the season on TD Garden ice.
The schedule between now and the New Year is going to get much more challenging, including two games against the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights, as well as two road games against the Metropolitan Division-leading New Jersey Devils. There are plenty of more chances for more “signature wins’’ to be had on the upcoming schedule.
Minus One: Bruins Hit With More Injuries
Just when the Bruins are about to get fully healthy, the injury bug struck and struck big time last week. Three players found themselves injured and who knows how long they will be without the services of some of their key players. Left wing Trent Frederic was injured against the Lightning when he slid into the boards and hurt his shoulder. He missed the final two games against the Panthers and Hurricanes. The win over Carolina was a historic one, but the Black and Gold lost two more players.
Craig Smith, who was in the lineup for Frederic, did not return for the third period because of an upper-body injury. The more significant injury occurred in the third period. Goaltender Linus Ullmark sprawled to make a save and made two in a row before defenseman Connor Clifton fell on him. He left with an upper-body injury, but losing him for any amount of time will be a big loss and put more weight on the shoulders of Jeremy Swayman.
Plus Two: David Pastrnak Remains Hot, Hot, Hot
There is no one hotter right now on the Bruins than Pastrnak. Krejci has been putting the puck into the net regularly, but the Bruins’ leading scorer is playing in the final year of his contract and increasing his pay raise with each game he plays.
Pastrnak currently has a nine-game point streak and he extended in each game last week with a power play goal. He scored a third-period goal against Tampa Bay to give the Bruins a commanding 5-1 lead, before a third-period strike against the Panthers to cut the deficit to 4-2. He saved his best for last against Carolina when he buried a pass from Brad Marchand in overtime for the game-winner. With each day that passes by, the Bruins should be concerned that they have yet to reach an agreement with their gifted goal-scorer.
Minus Two: Bruins Beginning to Have Lineup Questions on Defense
As Derek Forbort continues to work his way back from surgery for a broken middle finger, Montgomery has been shuffling his sixth defensemen in each game. Jakub Zboril played against the Panthers, but he was benched for the third period and was scratched against Carolina. The Bruins’ first-year coach is sending the 13th overall pick of the 2015 Entry Draft a message.
“More assertive play – that message has been consistent. We want him to play more assertive.’’
Jim Montgomery (from ‘Bashful Bergeron happy to receive Garden salute,’ Boston Globe, Nov. 26, 2022)
Anton Stralman replaced Zboril in the lineup against the Hurricanes and was paired on his off-side with Brandon Carlo. Zboril had a strong training camp and played well in the preseason games, but he has struggled in the regular season. When Forbort returns, Zboril will likely find himself on the outside looking and he might even move behind Stralman on the depth chart.
Plus Three: David Krejci Keys Both Wins
When he left a game against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 27 with an upper-body injury, Krejci missed the next three games with an injury. He returned against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 5, but he was not the same player. It took him some time to get his game shape back as well as his confidence, but now the veteran is getting hot and sparked both wins last week.
He began the five-goal outburst against Tampa Bay with a goal late in the first period. He then had the secondary assist in the second period on Nick Foligno’s power play goal that gave the Bruins the lead for good. He picked up the secondary assist on Pastrnak’s goal against the Panthers, but he single-handily helped the Black and Gold reach the record books against Carolina.
With the Bruins trailing 2-0 late in the second period, he finally was able to get a shot past Hurricanes goalie Pyotr Kochetkov when he received a pass from Pastrnak and buried a shot under the crossbar with 30 seconds remaining in the period. In the third and with the Bruins’ power play expiring, he flipped a shot from the point and through a Foligno screen to tie the game. The goal was initially waived off by the on-ice official, but Montgomery challenged the call and it was overturned to a goal.
Krejci has been as good as the Bruins hoped he would have been when he returned this season after spending last season in Czechia.
Minus Three: Penalties Becoming an Issue for the Bruins
In the first month-plus of the season, the Bruins did a good job of playing disciplined hockey and staying out of the penalty box. That was not the case in the last week.
In three games, Boston was whistled for 16 minor penalties, including six against Florida and seven against Carolina. The schedule is going to get a lot tougher with a lot of road games in the month, which makes it vital that the Black and Gold stay out of the penalty box as much as they can.
Overall, it was a successful week, winning two out of three games, but if there is one concern, it’s the injuries piling up. This week offers just two games, Nov. 29 against the Lightening and Dec. 3 against the Avalanche. If there was a long break in the schedule, the Bruins are getting it at the right time.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.