The Boston Bruins returned home from their three-game road trip through Colorado, Arizona and Vegas. And Jim Montgomery’s bunch didn’t fall victim to many of the blues usually reserved for a team’s first home game from a lengthy swing out west.
Tuesday’s 4-3 shootout win wasn’t perfect. The Bruins arrived a little late to their first tilt of the season against the New York Islanders until Jake DeBrusk scored a pair a mere 19 seconds apart. They encountered some hiccups with turnovers and defensive zone coverage, and their transition game wasn’t as sharp compared to some of their earlier matchups.
The B’s earned some bounces on DeBrusk’s pair and Derek Forbort’s second-period shorthanded marker. The Islanders tried to rope-a-dope their way to victory after evening things up from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits.
Linus Ullmark remained sharp in net, stopping 23 Isles shots, and improved to an eye-opening 17-1 on the season. Semyon Varlamov was just as impressive, notching 30 saves, including a handful of timely stops in the third period and overtime, including a one-timer from Pastrnak late in regulation.
Charlie Coyle failed to convert on his first-round shootout attempt. Mat Barzal gave the Isles the advantage in the ensuing chance. But the Bruins managed to cap off the win following a pair of nifty markers from DeBrusk and Pastrnak and Ullmark’s stops on Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey in the second and third rounds of the proverbial skills competition.
Here’s what we learned after the Bruins upped their season record to 23-4-1 through 28 games.
Bruins overcome ‘mountain time.’
Every NHL team east of the Mississippi will need time to readjust to their home confines whenever they travel for a multi-game trip on the other side of the U.S. and Canada. More often than not, they’ll encounter a few lulls after a few games of puck drops in mountain and pacific time zones.
The Bruins didn’t have the luxury of an extra day off following their 3-1 victory in Vegas on Sunday. Montgomery and the coaching staff only had one gameday skate to prepare for a trap-happy Islanders bunch. Yet, Boston’s veteran-laden group managed to earn another win even as they fought off some of the proverbial cobwebs.
“Our bodies were on mountain time today,” Montgomery said. “It’s an incredible effort. It was a gutsy effort from the guys in there to will themselves against a very good hockey team.”
Given the circumstance, the Bruins needed Ullmark to bail them out. Indeed, the Swede continued his hot hand in his second straight start.
“It’s not the game that we wanted by any means. You can tell there was some fatigue and [other] things from travel,” DeBrusk said. “We had every excuse to lose this one. Give the Islanders credit. They played a really good game, and they played consistent throughout, and found a way to battle back. But also, give a lot of credit to Linus. He kept us in the game.”
Ullmark continues his Vezina-like season.
Given the history start, a handful of Bruins will find themselves in early-season discussions for individual hardware. With only one blemish in his 18 appearances, Ullmark sits atop the list of candidates to take home the trophy given to the league’s top netminder.
The former Sabre sits near the top of the goaltending ranks in every statistical category. But it isn’t just the numbers that stand out.
Once again, Ullmark provided that calm presence between the pipes. The Bruins encountered a few breakdowns defensively, especially in the first period.
Ullmark faced his share of quality looks, including Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s breakaway attempt during the 3-on-3 extra session. He was up to the task and kept his team alive throughout Tuesday’s tilt.
“That’s what really good goalies do — they give you an opportunity to win,” Montgomery said of Ullmark. “We easily could’ve been down 3-0 before we scored that first goal. He’s done it all year long.”
Ullmark earned his stripes again. From DeBrusk to Forbort and Pavel Zacha, the Bruins also provided enough support for their netminder.
Forbort is adding offense to his arsenal.
Boston’s penalty kill returned to form after Forbort came back from an upper-body ailment a few weeks back. The veteran defenseman again provided a steady PK presence, helping the Bruins kill off all three of the Islander’s power play chances.
Forbort’s defensive skillset stands out, but he doesn’t hesitate to provide secondary scoring. He just so happened to provide that timely moment on a late second-period penalty kill in a 2-2 hockey game.
Forbort jumped into the attacking zone during a sequence between DeBrusk and Zacha and promptly fired a slick wrist shot past Varlamov for his second goal of the season.
“I didn’t know where that puck was, but he shelved it,” DeBrusk said of Forbort’s shorthanded tally. “There was some baby sauce on that guy with a little finesse touch. I was really happy to see that go in. It was a snipe. I was very impressed to say the least. It was happy to see.”
Montgomery and the coaching staff turn to Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk and Hampus Lindholm to provide most of the scoring from the back end. But the first-year bench boss also allows freedom for his stay-at-home defenseman to complement the attack.
That freedom provided Forbort with another offensive opportunity following DeBrusk’s first goal, where he drove to the net against Josh Bailey for a potential tip. Forbort’s assertiveness resulted in DeBrusk finding the back of the net off Bailey’s stick for his second goal in 19 seconds.
“He doesn’t like it when we’re too stagnant. He likes us jumping up and keep pucks alive and being part of the offense,” Forbort said of Montgomery’s system.
“I think every one is getting more and more comfortable that everybody should be helping us producing offense…whether they produce points or they’re just a part of the play that’s creating the play,” Montgomery said.
The Bruins won’t tab Forbort for power play minutes anytime soon. Nor do they expect him to alter his role as a stout defensive traits.
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