At a time when there haven’t been many quality wins for the Boston Bruins against quality hockey teams this season, Thursday night’s “W” qualifies in both “quality” categories for the Black and Gold.
Taylor Hall notched a pair of assists, Jake DeBrusk made it two goals in four games since requesting a trade from the Boston Bruins, struggling defenseman Matt Grzelcyk notched the third period game-winner and Linus Ullmark was outstanding as well with 41 saves in a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers in front of 16,000 plus fans at Rogers Arena.
For a hockey club that clearly isn’t firing on all cylinders and is experiencing early season issues that they’re attempting to work through, a Thursday night win against the Oilers qualifies as one of their best thus far this season.
“We ended up getting a point but weren’t incredibly happy with the way we played [in Vancouver],” said Grzelcyk of Wednesday night’s shootout loss to Vancouver. “We knew we had a back-to-back coming into a tough building playing one of the best teams in the league. We have a lot of character on this team, a lot of believability.
“We sort of adjusted before the game that we wanted to play with a little more urgency, play with some more passion. Think that was kind of missing from our game [Wednesday] night. I thought everyone bought in and did a great job.”
It all started as it does in most instances with special teams fireworks as Brad Marchand buried a shorthanded backhander in the first period, and a Jake DeBrusk power play strike made it a two-goal advantage for Boston.
Brad Marchand with a killer shorty and the Bruins are up 1-0. Perfection Line forwards keeping the B’s afloat these days pic.twitter.com/C6vGOym3TY
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) December 10, 2021
Once again, the Bruins couldn’t contain Leon Draisaitl, however, as a pair of power play one-timers evened things up in the third period for the Oil, but the Bruins were able to manufacture an elusive five-on-five goal with their second line on the ice.
Hall and Craig Smith worked it out to Grzelcyk at the point and the puck-moving defenseman blasted one through traffic, courtesy of Charlie Coyle, for his first goal of the season. The Boston Bruins still have the same one-dimensional problems where they are far too reliant on the Perfection Line and their special teams to carry them against lesser opponents.
Those won’t be addressed through game-planning or simple fixes. And that doesn’t even get to the embarrassing level of softness this entire Boston Bruins roster has shown when other teams push around their captain. But there’s something to be said for other players stepping up to provide some secondary scoring against a team where they clearly were needed for a winning result.
“[It was] nothing too flashy, just a shot, retrieving pucks, winning battles, and Smitty coming off the wall with it and making a good play, finds the open man and Grizz finishes it, guys going to the net,” said Coyle. “We execute that, and we bring our compete, win battles, we’re gonna see our opportunities.”
“It’s not always gonna be perfect, it’s not always gonna go in your favor. Sometimes you’ve got to kind of grind it out and just go back to just simple. Sometimes you get away from it, but we just have to stay with it. It’s always a work in progress, keep working at it and we’re still doing that. You see what happens. It doesn’t always happen right away. You work through it, and you get a big goal at the end.”
None of it changes the fact that the Boston Bruins are a putrid 29th in the NHL with just 37 five-on-five goals scored in 23 games. The Colorado Avalanche have also played the same 23 games as the Bruins this season but have scored 58 even strength goals this season in a real show of just how anemic the B’s are offensively at even strength.
A lot of it comes down to very little from the new faces brought in to bring depth to Boston’s scoring attack. Nick Foligno has yet to light the lamp this season, Erik Haula has just a single goal in 22 games along with a minus-3 rating and Tomas Nosek has just a pair of goals while currently left behind in Boston for this road trip due to non-COVID illness.
The good news is that Craig Smith is coming alive offensively and has three points in his last four games while setting up Thursday night’s Grzelcyk game-winner, and Hall chipped in a pair of helpers against the Oil as well. Charlie Coyle is on pace for 25 goals and 50 points even as he’s not the ideal long-term solution for the No. 2 center spot and has done reasonably well miscast in a difficult assignment replacing David Krejci.
That development is just glaringly obvious for the Bruins that their post-Krejci plan is not working on a night-to-night basis.
At this point, instead it’s abundantly clear that the Bruins need to find a true second line center if they’re going to A) truly compete for a Stanley Cup and B) get back to a functional group of forwards with everybody in their proper spot. That will ultimately determine the fate of this Bruins group this season and, more importantly, could impact what the grand plan is moving forward for a Black and Gold group clearly at a crossroads.
But credit where it’s due: The Boston Bruins earned a quality win over the Oilers on Thursday night and at this point in time that’s something worthy of credit and consideration. There was a time when it was a given that the Bruins would rack up these kinds of wins without fanfare or attaboys, and it was merely business as usual.
But those glory days have passed as the Boston Bruins struggle and grind with a new identity that’s more also-rans rather than top dogs until further notice.