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  • What we learned: Bruins pass emotional and physical tests

    James Garrison December 1, 2023

    Searching for a spark amid their three-game skid, the Boston Bruins found a matchup against an NHL bottom-feeder drop in their lap.

    With plenty of slick goals and solid goaltending to boot, Jim Montgomery’s squad passed the physical test. 

    With an emphatic response following a dirty hit to their captain, the Bruins also passed the emotional test. 

    The Bruins opened the scoring for the first time in three games. Matt Poitras made an excellent dish on his backhand to new linemate Danton Heinen. Heinen one-timed the pass home for his third goal of the season at 1:39 of the second period. 

    “Danton Heinen’s a real good hockey player and he’s playing real good hockey for us,” Montgomery said. “He’s making plays all over the ice. He’s making those around him better.”

    The Bruins continued their strong second-period push, this time with another new-look line producing. Pavel Zacha hit Jake DeBrusk in stride, who pulled off a nifty forehand-backhand move to double Boston’s lead. 

    With three goals in his last five games, DeBrusk has found an offensive groove following a slow start to his season. 

    Boston’s emotional mettle was put to the test when Givani Smith boarded Brad Marchand in the second period. Derek Forbort immediately jumped into the fray and took out Smith, while Trent Frederic dropped the gloves with Smith shortly after. 

    “A lot of guys have stood up,” Frederic said. “[Forbort] did it in Florida. We have a bunch of guys that can do it. That time, I called my own number.”

    More adversity struck the Bruins when they had to kill off a two-man advantage between the end of the second period and the beginning of the third.

    After major line changes by Montgomery to start the game, a more familiar combination added more insurance for the Bruins on the man advantage. David Pastrnak fed Zacha for another pretty finish. 

    Jeremy Swayman made 26 stops en route to his second shutout of the season.

    Here’s what we learned after the Bruins got back on track with a 3-0 win over the Sharks. 

    The Bruins responded emphatically after the hit on Marchand

    On March 23 last season, Marchand immediately jumped Rem Pitlick after he hit then-captain Patrice Bergeron late. 

    On Thursday night, the Bruins showed the same collective response after their new captain received an equally dirty hit. 

    “[Marchand’s] our captain,” Frederic said. “Everyone loves him in here and he’s obviously a great player.”

    The response not only came in the form of physical responses from Forbort, Frederic and Marchand himself, but the Bruins also stuck together when forced to kill off San Jose’s two-man advantage. 

    “We have a lot of confidence in our kill, even when we’re down three on five,” Montgomery said. “[Assistant coach] Joe Sacco has a great plan all the time.”

    The Bruins held steady as their two-goal lead was threatened early in the third and did not give the Sharks many looks during the 5-on-3 sequence.

    Swayman responds after getting pulled

    It seemed to be a night of responses all around for the Bruins. 

    On a night filled with new-look lines and the defending of captains, Swayman might have flown under the radar. 

    In a rare occurrence Monday night, Montgomery pulled Swayman in search of a spark for his lackadaisical team. Three nights later, Montgomery gave Swayman an opportunity to bounce back, and the fourth-year netminder delivered.

    “Love the way Jeremy responded,” Montgomery said of Swayman. “The way I expect him to respond. He’s a battler, he’s a competitor. That’s why I love having him between the pipes.”

    Although he didn’t have the busiest of nights, Swayman stopped 26 pucks to earn the 11th shutout of his career in his 100th NHL start. 

    “That’s exactly what I wanted to do [to respond]. What I wanted to do was keep the puck out of the net,” Swayman said. “It feels good, but at the same time, plenty to work on still and we want to use this as a momentum piece moving forward.”

    New look top-six finds some early chemistry

    Montgomery is no stranger to putting his lines in a blender. 

    It seemed all too necessary after three consecutive ugly losses. DeBrusk moved back to the left side to join Zacha and Pastrnak. Marchand moved down to skate with Poitras, while Heinen moved up to round out the trio. 

    “I really liked the Poitras line,” Montgomery said. “The Zacha line had moments, but it wasn’t consistent–as consistent as I liked the Marchand-Poitras-Heinen line.”

    The new-look top six took a period to find their chemistry but gelled nicely in the final forty minutes. Although the chemistry was found against the bottom-of-the-standings Sharks, a step in the right direction had to start somewhere. 

    “I liked the checking part [of our game,]” Montgomery said. “I thought we checked well…I thought we were a little slow in offensive transition. We got better, though. I thought the second period was a real good period going both ways.”

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