Bruins’ depth shining bright after starting new NHL season with two wins


BOSTON — Bruins players and management raved about the team’s depth at Media Day earlier this week.

That excitement and optimism, at least through the first two games of the 2022-23 NHL season, has been warranted. 

After the Bruins’ top players — primarily David Krejci (one goal, two assists) and David Pastrnak (one goal, three assists) — carried most of the scoring burden in a 5-2 season-opening win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, it was the bottom-six group that led the way Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes.

Bruins d-man Brandon Carlo (upper body) exits game vs. Coyotes

Pavel Zacha, Charlie Coyle, Nick Foligno, A.J. Greer and Derek Forbort all scored for Boston en route to a 6-3 victory in the home opener at TD Garden.

The Bruins’ 11 goals in two games have been scored by 10 different players. What does head coach Jim Montgomery take away from that stat?

“It tells us how deep we are. I said we have really good depth, and we’re still missing three really good players,” Montgomery said. “It’s nice when that third and fourth line can really control the play like they did tonight. I thought every time they were out there, they tilted the ice, which was really good. It’s good for them, they’re going to get confidence from it, and we’re going to get more confidence offensively in how we want to play.

 

“I thought tonight was a really good puck possession game. We have to get better in our game management — we’re a little sloppy in some of our tracking, but it’s two games in. We’re doing a lot of really good things, and I think there are some small things we have to clean up.”

The performance of the bottom-six was most encouraging for the Bruins.

The star of the show was A.J. Greer, who has found a home in Boston after playing 47 NHL games over five seasons between the Colorado Avalanche and New Jersey Devils. 

Greer scored twice, including a tally in the third period that gave the Bruins a 5-3 lead and essentially secured the victory.

The Bruins’ third line of Greer, Coyle and Trent Frederic played fantastic. In addition to Greer’s two goals, Coyle also scored and Frederic picked up an assist and fought Coyotes forward Liam O’Brien in the second period. This line had a 6-1 edge in shots and a 6-0 advantage in scoring chances during its 8:43 of 5-on-5 ice time, per Natural Stat Trick.

The fourth line played fantastic, too. Nick Foligno, who had a very disappointing 2021-22 campaign (two goals in 64 games) for the B’s, scored his first goal of the season when he tipped a Connor Clifton shot past Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka in the second period. 

“He got a goal where he should be — right in front of the net, where he’s had a lot of success his entire career,” Montgomery said of Foligno’s goal. “I’m happy for him. I’m happy for that fourth line.”

The fourth line of Foligno, Jakub Lauko and Tomas Nosek had a 6-1 lead in shots, a 7-0 edge in scoring chances and a 5-0 advantage in high-danger chances during its 9:12 of 5-on-5 ice time.

Teams don’t lose many games when their third and fourth lines combine for a 13-1 edge in scoring chances over the opponent. And not only was Boston’s bottom-six creating offense, it was setting a physical tone that gave the entire team an emotional lift to finish the game strong after the Coyotes had erased the Bruins’ 3-1 lead early in the third period.

It’s nice when that third and fourth line can really control the play like they did tonight. I thought every time they were out there, they tilted the ice, which was really good.

Jim Montgomery on Boston’s bottom six

Scoring depth has been a major weakness for the Bruins in recent playoff runs, including last season’s first-round loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Depth might not be a fatal flaw for the Bruins this year, though, and we started to see signs of that in camp when young players pushed hard and won a few spots on the Opening Night roster. 

Greer, Lauko and Jack Studnicka all made the team. Marc McLaughlin and Fabian Lysell likely will get a chance at the NHL level at some point, too. And if veterans such as Craig Smith, Nosek and Foligno have bounce-back seasons, we could see Boston rank among the top 10 teams in goals scored after finishing 15th in 2021-22. 

 

We’ve only seen 120 minutes of hockey from the Bruins, but so far, depth up front has been one of the team’s major strengths.

“I like what our lines are all doing,” Foligno said. “Every time our lines step over the boards, the identity that we have is exactly what we preached in training camp. It’s been fun to be a part of.”





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