BOSTON – How early is too early to push the panic button?
Rhetorical question aside, the cause for genuine concern with this Boston Bruins team is starting to surface. With only five games into the regular season, however, there is still plenty of time to figure things out with this roster in flux.
After splitting the first two games of the 2017-18 campaign at home, the Bruins concluded their first road trip of the season with a 1-2-0 record. This was a road trip that included the first game in franchise history against the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
The eye test alone should have many folks jumping to the conclusion that something is just not right with this team in the early going. Yes, injuries have been a factor. With that being said, the Bruins rank 20th in the National Hockey League with only 2.8 goals per game. It is unfortunate because the B’s only have a 10-game slate in October, and the relatively light workload should have them feeling refreshed and energized. As November approaches, securing points and creeping back up the Atlantic Division standings will be crucial if Boston wants a long season.
The Bruins were back in action at TD Garden this past Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks, who were fresh off a 3-0 win against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. Since the Canucks were in the midst of their own lengthy road trip, it was a great opportunity for the Black and Gold to secure a win against a fatigued opponent.
Anton Khudobin (1-0-0, 1.52 GAA, .950 SV%) opposed Anders Nilsson (1-0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%) in the goaltending matchup. In a huge boost to the on-ice presence for the Bruins, Patrice Bergeron (lower-body injury) and David Backes (diverticulitis) both made their season debuts on Thursday night. Also, Kenny Agostino was recalled from Providence earlier in the week for this game.
The Bruins and Canucks scored within seconds of each other early in the first period. Shortly after that, Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson received a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct for leveling Frank Vatrano. The Bruins exploded for three goals on the extended power play that followed and jumped out to a 4-1 lead. Rightfully so, Boston forced Vancouver to play a more defensive style of hockey to start the game.
“Hopefully I can bring as much to the table as my linemates do on a consistent basis,” said Anders Bjork after the game. “Being able to make the reads and get open the way I did, it is all about playing the right way.”
In the second period, the pace started to slow down significantly. Brad Marchand netted home his fourth goal of the season to give the B’s an even bigger cushion. However, a couple of careless penalties and mindless defensive lapses allowed the Canucks to score a pair of goals to pull within two. Thomas Vanek and Bo Horvat were the goal scorers for Vancouver.
The time started to tick away for the Canucks as the third period progressed rapidly, which really killed their momentum. The Bruins were stingy in their own zone, making it tough for Vancouver to create any decent scoring chances in the final 20 minutes. Bergeron put the game out of reach when he scored his first goal of the season on the power play. The Bruins held on to win this game by a final score of 6-3.
“It was great to be back out there with the guys and battle with them,” said Bergeron regarding his return. “I feel good right now, but this might be something I have to manage the rest of the year.”
Bergeron finished with a goal and three assists while Bjork tallied two goals and an assist. Khudobin finished the night with 26 saves.
“The last couple of games we really did not do a good job with our scoring chances so it was a good bounce back game for us,” said David Pastrnak. “It was good to have a couple of our guys back to give us a lift out there on the power play.”
The Bruins will play their next game this coming Saturday night at home against the Buffalo Sabres.
Roster for 10/19 vs. VAN
Forwards: Kenny Agostino, David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci, Sean Kuraly, Brad Marchand, Riley Nash, David Pastrnak, Tim Schaller, Frank Vatrano
Defensemen: Brandon Carlo, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller
Goaltenders: Anton Khudobin, Zane McIntyre
Side Notes…Ryan Spooner will be out of action for four to six weeks with a groin adductor tear suffered this past Sunday…Tuukka Rask (concussion) was ruled out for this game after colliding with Anders Bjork in practice on Wednesday…Riley Nash entered this game just one point shy of his 100th NHL point…David Backes entered this game just two points shy of his 500th NHL point…The Bruins swept the season series vs. Vancouver last year with a 4-3 win in Boston on Feb. 11 and a 6-3 victory in Vancouver on March 13.