The early returns of Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk
Marchand, McAvoy and Grzelcyk all had to miss time to start the season to continue their recovery from their respective off-season surgeries. In turn, the Bruins entered the first month of the season hoping just to tread water.
Or so we thought.
The Bruins earned a 3-1 start in their four games without Grzelcyk. The Charlestown native, initially slated for a mid-November return following his shoulder operation, made his season debut in Boston’s 2-1 shootout win over Anaheim on Oct. 20.
Marchand was also slated to return in November following double-hip surgery. He returned a week after Grzelcyk on Oct. 27. While Marchand underwent a late-season slump and admitted he wasn’t feeling 100 percent for most of the season, he still produced at a healthy rate.
Finally, McAvoy debuted in mid-November. The 2016 first-round selection, originally projected to return in December following his shoulder operation, picked up where he left off as the anchor of Boston’s blue line.
The Bruins speak out against the Mitchell Miller signing
After the Arizona Coyotes rescinded his draft rights, the Boston Bruins thought they had done enough research on Mitchell Miller to bring him into their prospect ranks.
But there was one problem: Miller still never apologized to a disabled person of color in Isaiah Meyer-Crothers after years of heinous bullying as a teenager. Public backlash followed from the passionate fanbase.
The Miller signing didn’t sit well with the locker room, either. Marchand, Nick Foligno and captain Patrice Bergeron publicly spoke out against Sweeney’s decision.
A character-based head-scratching signing could’ve easily derailed the Bruins’ season. The goodwill they had compiled since Zdeno Chara’s days as captain could’ve been a thing of the past.
The public backlash toward the front office, specifically Sweeney and team President Cam Neely, continued after the Bruins rescinded Miller’s rights. Aside from the findings of an independent investigation, the Bruins moved on from this debacle and continued their quest for history on the ice.
The captain gets his 1,000th career point
A season of milestones continued on Thanksgiving Week in Tampa.
The Bruins began one of their most challenging stretches of the season. That seven-game stretch included a pair of matchups with the Lightning, a rematch of last year’s first-round series with the Hurricanes, a pair of matchups against the defending champion Avalanche, the reigning Presidents’ Trophy recipients in the Panthers and Bruce Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights.
Bergeron sat one point shy of 1,000 entering that difficult slate. He wasted little time notching the milestone in a marquee early season matchup.
Boston’s captain notched a secondary assist on Marchand’s tally. His longtime linemate and best friend pointed in his direction to notify him of the accomplishment. The rest of Bergeron’s teammates left the bench and huddled around their leader to celebrate the milestone.
Jake DeBrusk’s triumphant Winter Classic moment
DeBrusk didn’t even know if he’d suit up in the Winter Classic when the league announced the Bruins-Penguins matchup at Fenway Park last season. At that point, his trade request had become public, and his deteriorating relationship with Cassidy was seemingly at the point of no return.
Slowly, but surely, DeBrusk found his rhythm again. He made enough of an impact to move into a top-line role with Marchand and Bergeron at the end of Feb. 2022. The 2015 first-round pick hasn’t looked back.
DeBrusk rescinded his trade request before the 2022-23 campaign. But his journey came to a full circle at the legendary home of the Boston Red Sox.
In desperate need of a spark, an injured DeBrusk put the team on his back, scoring the tying and go-ahead markers to give the Bruins their second come-from-behind win of the season over the Penguins.
Garnet Hathaway’s grinding skillset gave the Bruins another fourth-line cog. The versatile Dmitry Orlov provided another layer of defensive depth, playing on both sides of the blue line throughout the three pairings.
Sweeney acted swiftly — again — when Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno sustained lower-body injuries during their west coast swing in late February. Upon returning home from a perfect 4-0 trip, the Bruins added one more piece to their puzzle with Tyler Bertuzzi’s arrival. The former Red Wing provided a skilled and heavy presence in Boston’s middle six, notching five goals and 11 in 18 games with the Bruins.
Linus Ullmark’s goalie goal
Before Bertuzzi arrived, the Bruins welcomed Hathaway and Orlov in Vancouver upon their arrival from Washington. The former Caps impressed in their first stint in black and gold. But the main postgame talking point from that 3-1 win over the Canucks centered around Boston’s Vezina candidate.
After nearly missing his first attempt on an empty net bid at the Winter Classic, Ullmark wouldn’t let another opportunity go to waste. During the final minute of play, the former Sabre lofted a 190-foot tally to cap off Boston’s 3-1 win.
Upon his first career goal, Ullmark went through the goal line. In the end, he received his trademark postgame hug from a leaping Jeremy Swayman, who himself came close to notching an empty-net tally earlier in the season.
Pastrnak’s 60-goal season and contract extension
The Bruins’ most dynamic homegrown playmaker of recent memory isn’t going anywhere.
Amid speculation throughout the season, the Sweeney and Pastrnak camps agreed on an eight-year contract extension worth $11.25 million annually.
Pastrnak indeed cashed in on his big payday. But he never became complacent after inking his signature.
The 2014 first-round pick continued his career season in the ensuing weeks. Pastrnak notched his first 50-goal campaign during the Bruins’ shootout win in Carolina on March 26. He followed that up with a historic 60-goal season after notching a hat trick in Boston’s’ record-breaking 63rd win in Philadelphia.
Surely Pastrnak needs to work on limiting his turnovers. Yet, he more than makes up for any of his miscues with his dynamic playmaking skillset. And despite what 98.5, WEEI, or any other opine from “Everybody Sucks” afternoon drive time shows may suggest, the crafty Czech is worth every penny of his new deal.
Pavel Zacha’s emergence on the top-six
Pastrnak’s reunion with David Krejci set the stage for his career season. As the season progressed, the Bruins found the third wheel to form an all-Czech trio.
Arriving from New Jersey in a summer trade involving Erik Haula, Zacha has made the most of his first season in Boston. The 2015 sixth overall selection earned NESN’s Seventh Player Award, given to the player who performs above and beyond expectations.
Frankly, Zacha deserved the honors. Like many of his teammates, Zacha embarked on a career season. The veteran has 21 goals and 36 assists heading into Thursday’s regular-season finale in Montreal.
The versatile Zacha transitioned back to center as Krejci used the final weeks of the regular season to attend to a nagging injury. He filled the role admirably, tallying nine points in his last nine games.
Barring any internal or external development, the Bruins will move Zacha back to his natural center position in the post-Bergeron and Krejci era. He could become one of the NHL’s top bargains if his progression continues.
The Bruins signed Zacha in January to a four-year contract extension with an annual $4.75 million cap hit.
The record-breaking wins
On April 9, the Bruins traveled to Philly and earned their 63rd win.
The previous wins mark of 62 set by the 1995-96 Red Wings and 2018-19 Lightning wasn’t the only record-breaking victory. Two nights later against the Capitals, Jim Montgomery’s club earned their 133rd point of the season to surpass the 1976-77 Canadiens.
The Bruins etched their name atop the league record books. But anything short of a Stanley Cup would make this historic regular season rather meaningless.
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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