The Boston Bruins’ offensive firepower from the first week of the 2022-23 campaign has fizzled a tad over the last week. Defensively, they’ve made some strides over the previous three games, including in Tuesday’s tilt with the Dallas Stars.
Jim Montgomery’s squad allowed some quality scoring chances off the rush and in front of the net against Tyler Seguin and company. For the most part, they limited the Stars in their secondary opportunities off tips and rebounds, allowing Linus Ullmark to track pucks through traffic en route to a 30-save outing.
Boston’s lone breakdown came on Wyatt Johnston’s early second-period equalizer. The defensive structure, along with timely goals from David Pastrnak (on a power play blast), Taylor Hall (on a go-ahead marker late in the second period), and Patrice Bergeron (on an empty netter) sparked the Bruins to a 3-1 win on Hockey Fights Cancer night at TD Garden.
“We hadn’t won a game doing that. We’ve kind of surrendered leads, and then we wind up winning in overtime or we pull away late. But it’s nice to close out a game,” Montgomery said after facing his former Stars squad, which completed their third game in four nights.
“Dallas, I give them credit. They played us really hard at the end of a three-in-four. They pushed us and they tested us, and I liked the way we shut things down in the last four minutes.”
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins improved to 6-1 for the first time since their 1969-70 Stanley Cup campaign.
Bruins thrive in shutdown third period.
Even in their lower-scoring outings, the Bruins needed to lean on Ullmark for stops on odd-man rushes and secondary chances. He provided stability then and continued to provide that same calmness between the pipes during his third straight start.
This time, Ullmark had a little more help in front of his crease, particularly in the third period.
With the Bruins clinging on to a 2-1 lead late in regulation, a structured D provided timely moments in closing time. They held the Stars in check in the final four minutes, relinquishing only a pair of shots on net en route to Bergeron’s empty-net dagger.
The Stars outshot the Bruins, 30-27. But on this night, Boston’s blue-line supported Ullmark with 11 blocked shots.
“I don’t want to talk about me; I want to talk about the team,” Ullmark said. “It’s not just me out there; it’s a whole group of guys. We’re doing this together. It’s a whole group of guys who are doing this together. It’s not just me. There are guys out there who are blocking shots left and right, boxing out and doing the right things over and over and over again. It’s fun to see.”
For all of their stout defensive work, the Bruins struggled to generate offense in Tuesday’s grinder. But, they dug deep and earned their sixth win in seven games.
The second line feels they have another level to reach
As they found difficulties creating quality looks, the second line of Hall, Pastrnak and David Krejci still found a way to find the back of the net.
Even without their top defensemen in Miro Heiskanen, the Stars held a 12-5 edge shot attempts 8-4 shots on net in 10:48 of 5v5 time against the Hall, Krejci, Pastrnak trio. For the most part, they prevented the second line from creating prime scoring chances along the slot and goal-line areas.
As they struggled to gain traction in the prime scoring areas, the talented forwards had to find different ways to find the back of the net. But as one of the top playmakers found their sweet spot on the power play, the other half of Boston’s second-line wing combo had to create time and space to break through.
Coming off their late-game heroics from Saturday’s OT thriller against the Wild, Pastrnak and Hall once again found the back of the net. This time they both had to fire one-timers to get the job done against Jake Ottinger, beginning with Pastrnak’s blast with the man advantage and ending with Hall notching his third goal in as many games on Tuesday’s go-ahead tally.
“Not every game is perfect, but tonight we found a way to contribute,” Hall said. “It was a little bit of a sloppy game, and we didn’t have the O-zone time that we would want. But that’s a solid defensive team that doesn’t give you a whole lot. They protect the slot well, and obviously, that’s where we’re looking to get shots from and create second chances. It’s a good sign that when you don’t have you’re best, you can find a way to get on the board and find a way to get that goal back that we were on for.”
Amid a tough but productive night, the second line continued to gel. But, as usual during an 82-game slate, they still see that improvements are within reach.
“We obviously still have some things to work on like being a little closer to each other,” Pastrnak said. “But, you know I still feel chemistry is there.”
Indeed, the tight-knit Bruins put forth quite an impressive outing, given the early-season circumstances.
The Bruins are finding a variety of ways to win.
Montgomery couldn’t have asked for a better seven-game start to his Boston tenure.
The Bruins have thrived in the face of early-season adversity with their 6-1 start. They’ve showcased some good depth as they continue to find footing in Montgomery’s system.
Not only are they winning, but they’re recording two points through different means. Early on, they relied on outscoring the opposition in proverbial track meets. At times, however, they had to persevere to victory after relinquishing some multi-goal leads.
Amid some offensive struggles, they never trailed against the Stars.
“I think we’re finding different ways to win every night,” Montgomery said. “I thought that there were offensive plays to be made that even our elite offensive players weren’t seeing. But our checking is really improving, and we won with defense. And, of course, Linus was really good in net tonight.”
Without Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy, the Bruins found ways to win through timely scoring, goaltending and defense.
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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