The Boston Bruins embarked on an unusual schedule to start their 2021-22 campaign.
Thursday’s tilt with the Detroit Red Wings marked their first game since Saturday’s thrilling 3-2 shootout win over the previously undefeated Florida Panthers. This same Bruins squad encountered a 10-day layover between their preseason finale and their season-opening 3-1 triumph over the Dallas Stars. In between, they’ve endured more unusual timeframes — three days between their win over Dallas and their second game of the season and again between their 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks and their first meeting of the year with Florida to kick off a two-game road trip.
Unlike their previous two layovers between games, the Bruins developed their skating legs from the get-go against the rebuilding Red Wings.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad heavily outshot the Red Wings, 37-15. Patrice Bergeron finally got off the schneid with a four-goal night that included a natural power-play hat trick. Jeremy Swayman returned to the win column, providing his usual calm presence between the pipes in his relatively light workload.
Bergeron and company began their six-game-in-eleven-day stretch with a 5-1 victory. Here’s what we learned following Boston’s second straight win.
Father time hasn’t caught up to Bergeron in the twilight of his illustrious career.
Surely, Bergeron would’ve wanted a goal in his first seven games. Even when he’s held off the scoresheet, the future Hall of Famer provides a significant presence with his attention to detail in all three zones.
The seven-game goal drought didn’t heavily burden Bergeron. And the battle-tested veteran knew it wasn’t long before he’d light the lamp again.
“I think it’s one of those things where I’ve been in the league long enough to know that it’s going to come back, right?” Bergeron said after his latest four-goal outing. “So, I think I have the experience to rely on. I think it’s about making sure you don’t force plays and you don’t try to think about the end result. But instead, it’s [about] going back to the details and making sure you play the right way, put yourself in good position, and eventually it’s going to come your way.”
Bergeron’s skid provided talking points from the hot take artists on sports radio. Somehow, Tony Massarotti and Jim Murray even questioned ‘his heart.’ As if he needed to silence his critics — especially after his otherworldly effort playing with broken ribs and a punctured lung in Game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final — Bergeron indeed made the pair of 98.5 drive time personalities eat proverbial crow.
“He’s too good of a player to keep him down for long,” Cassidy said of Bergeron.
Bergeron isn’t immune to a potential slip in production. But Boston’s captain doesn’t need the stats to back up his play. His actions trump any noise from some of the ill-informed opinions heard over the radio dials.
Boston’s early-season power-play slump reared its ugly head during the recent two-game road trip. And they nearly entered a tailspin in the final game of the opening month.
Charlie McAvoy’s equalizer on Boston’s 19th and final power-play attempt of October provided a needed building block. On Thursday, Bergeron singlehandedly matched the three PP goals from the season’s first month.
The top power-play quintet of Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Taylor Hall and Charlie McAvoy hemmed the Red Wings shorthanded unit with their stout puck movement and cycle game. Detroit’s shorthanded unit opted to prevent Pastrnak from firing his patented one-timer from the faceoff dot. The Bruins noticed this and turned to their next option: feeding Bergeron in the bumper.
The results spoke for themselves.
“I thought we did a good job going to the power play…getting the pucks to Bergy [Bergeron] because they were taking Pasta’s shots away,” Cassidy said of the power play setup. “It was something we saw on video that the middle of the ice was open and the guys stuck to the plan there.”
Surely, the top power-play unit hasn’t fully learned everyone’s tendencies yet. After all, Hall hardly spent any time in a net-front role during his career as McAvoy enters his first full season as the primary point man. Yet, Boston’s No. 1 man advantage unit established momentum heading Saturday’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Don Sweeney acquired Mike Reilly from Ottawa at last year’s trade deadline, hoping he’d instill another offensive layer to Boston’s blue-line. His early Bruins tenure provided mixed results.
Indeed, Reilly’s skillset suits the Bruins well in their transition game. He hasn’t performed all that poorly in his own end either. After all, Cassidy often Reilly in secondary special teams roles.
Even with his stout offensive instincts, Reilly encountered issues with his shot selections. A majority of Reilly’s shot attempts either wind up blocked or missing the net entirely. He hardly encountered the same issues against an injury-plagued Red Wings squad on Thursday, delivering a back-breaking shorthanded tally to give the Bruins a 4-1 cushion shortly after Lucas Raymond’s 5-on-3 power-play marker.
“Ever since I got to Boston, I felt like there’s been a lot of chances,” Reilly said after notching a goal for the first time since Jan 28. 2020. “A little frustrating, but good to get it out of the way.”
The Bruins rely on Matt Grzelcyk and McAvoy for their offensive output on the blue-line. Reilly’s keen passing skillset provides a complimentary dynamic for the former Boston University teammates. A few more lamplighters from the former Sens blue-liner will only benefit the club in the long run.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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