Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton out. Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson in. After a disappointing end to a miraculous playoff run, the Bruins underwent significant changes in the offseason.
Replacing two top line wingers, the team brings new hunger to their lineup, pushing for a chance to return to the Stanley Cup Finals for the third time in four seasons.
“Game in and game out I find that Loui is a lot like Bergy (Patrice Bergeron) as far as his focus to the game,” said coach Claude Julien at media day on Wednesday. “He is a very focused individual, he pays attention to the details…Loui being a really good experienced player on that line will help them be better.”
The first period of Thursday night’s game saw its fair share of ups and downs for the Bruins newcomers. Iginla showed off his wicked release from the slot with a nice wrist shot, and Eriksson had a scoring chance on the penalty kill- a very strong shift overall. Still, patience is needed, as it will clearly take time for the chemistry to evolve.
The Bruins took a 1-0 in the first when Chris Kelly was hauled down on a shorthanded breakaway, and made the Lightning pay scoring a beautiful penalty shot goal.
Eriksson finished the period on a high note, setting up both Marchand and Bergeron with great scoring chances. Even just one period into the season his on-ice intelligence is easily noticeable.
Iginla made some noise halfway through the second period.
After taking a huge hit from Tampa defensemen Radko Gudas, the two dropped the gloves in what turned out to be a boxing-like bout. Iginla got the better of the fight, scored the takedown, and energized the raucous home crowd. One game in and one fight down, the veteran winger will fit in just fine in Boston.
“Just trying to play hard, trying to get into it,” said Iginla postgame. “It’s different, you go through preseason and you want to do things right but you are also learning and the intensity isn’t the same. From when the puck drops for the first game that actually matters everybody is a little more revved up and excited. That’s just a part of it and playing with the Bruins and stuff you do want to get in there on the forecheck and get hit and join in on that and put pressure on their D, so I was trying to do that early.”
Torey Krug made a consequential mistake late in the second period, missing a hip-check on Tampa defensemen Eric Brewer who had jumped up into the play. Brewer made a nifty move and passed the puck to newcomer Valtteri Filppula who scored the goal.
Not a good play for Krug, especially considering the playing time battle between him, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski.
With exactly one minute left in the middle frame, Milan Lucic put the Bruins up 2-1 with a beautiful goal. Krejci made a great move at the blue line, fed Lucic with a nifty backhanded pass and the big winger went top shelf on Tampa netminder Anders Lindback.
Scoring their second shorthanded goal of the game, Patrice Bergeron extended the Bruins lead to 3-1 on a sweet curl and drag move. First goal of the season for the assistant captain, coming off a heroic playoff run in which he caught the hockey world by storm.
Iginla and Eriksson both improved as the game went on. Eriksson continually made smart plays and set up his linemates for a number of chances. Iginla brought a strong physical presence and had a number of shots on goal.
Their next test comes in the form of the division rival Detroit Red Wings Saturday night at the Garden.