Thursday’s tilt against the Detroit Red Wings saw Marchand’s surprise return to the lineup a month ahead of his initial recovery timeline. Following double-hip surgery in the off-season, the veteran winger was originally projected for a post-Thanksgiving return to the Bruins’ lineup.
“They told me it was going to be end of November,” Marchand said before his season debut on Thursday. “I was like, ‘It’s not going to be the end of November.’”
It didn’t take long for Marchand to tally his first point of the season, figuring on Charlie Coyle’s second goal of the year at 13:42 of the first period. Coyle jumped off the bench, stickhandled his way through the Red Wings’ defense, and beat the glove of Ville Husso.
Later on, Marchand collected his second point and the first goal of the season on the power play at 11:53 of the second period.
A Craig Smith turnover allowed Adam Erne to get Detroit on the board, cutting Boston’s lead in half. Erne’s shot from the high slot found its way through traffic, past Swayman, and to the back of the net.
David Krejci exited in the second period following a collision in Boston’s defensive end. Head coach Jim Montgomery confirmed that Krejci will not play in Friday’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Even without their second-line center, the Bruins piled on three more goals in the final frame via Marchand, Smith, and David Pastrnak, with two of the three coming on the power play.
A much sharper Swayman stopped 28 of 29 shots and the Bruins took down the Red Wings, 5-1.
“I gotta be honest, first two periods I wasn’t in love with our game,” Montgomery said. “There was a lot of elements of our game where we were slow again. I’d like to be faster than we played tonight.”
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s record-setting 7-1 start.
Marchand returns in style
Could it have gone any other way?
It was just Wednesday afternoon when encouraging words from Montgomery signaled a 7-10 day return window for Marchand.
The veteran winger surprised everyone with his early return on Thursday. He made the most of his season debut with an impressive three-point outing.
Marchand’s return punctuated the seismic impact of his presence to an already offensively-potent Bruins’ forward core.
“It’s great to get back into a game like this where you have success,” Marchand said. “When you’re watching it, obviously you’re part of it, but it’s completely different being in the room with the guys than on the ice. Long road, but very excited to be part of the team again and get the victory.”
Away from game action for almost six months, an adjustment period — albeit a short one — was still necessary for Marchand to find his game early on.
“It took me a while to get the timing back,” Marchand said. “You normally have exhibition games to get that out. It’s my first time doing it in the regular season… all in all, it doesn’t matter as long as you win. I could’ve played terrible tonight and still be happy.”
Swayman notches bounce-back performance
After allowing six goals on 25 shots in Boston’s lone loss of the year to the Ottawa Senators, a nine-day absence for Swayman resulted in a much-needed bounce-back performance against Detroit. That absence saw Linus Ullmark start three consecutive games, where he continued to make his case for the top goaltending spot in Boston.
“I knew I was gonna get another shot, and I wanted to make sure I took advantage of it,” Swayman said. I was making sure to keep the attitude good… having a quick memory. When I got a chance I was gonna give my team the best chance to win.”
Ullmark’s early-season .936 save percentage and 2.01 goals-against-average has helped motivate Swayman, who has taken somewhat of a backseat to Ullmark just eight games in.
“I think the two of them have been pushing each other in a healthy way for a long time,” said Montgomery. “The Boston Bruins and our fanbase are the beneficiaries.”
Swayman’s strong command of his crease against Detroit has brought him back up to speed with Ullmark’s ‘number one’ caliber goaltending.
Forbort and Clifton solidifying themselves as a solid third pair
With Marchand’s return occurring much earlier than anticipated, the focus now shifts solely to the only remaining Bruin on long-term injury row: Charlie McAvoy.
McAvoy’s return will undoubtedly solidify Boston’s top four yet create questions about the bottom pairing.
Derek Forbort and Connor Clifton established themselves as a reliable bottom pairing during last year’s playoffs. They’ve carried their momentum from that late-season run into the first month of the 2022-23 campaign.
“Look at the game Derek Forbort had tonight,” said Montgomery. “All of a sudden, he’s an offensive defenseman.”
Marchand’s return caused an inevitable domino effect, resulting in Mike Reilly’s assignment to Providence. With Reilly in Providence and Anton Stralman only having seen one game so far, the inevitable decision will seem to fall between Forbort, Clifton, and Jakub Zboril.
Zboril’s 14:58 of ice time Thursday — a low among Bruins defensemen — took place mainly in the first period prior to a potentially costly giveaway to Adam Erne. Although Swayman bailed out Zboril, the Boston netminder was much more appreciative of Forbort’s work breaking up a 3-on-1 later on in the first period.
“He’s the second goalie out there; he’s the best,” Swayman said of Forbort. “I trusted him for sure not letting the seam pass go, and he did his job.”
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