Since the beginning of training camp, Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery hasn’t sugarcoated anything when discussing what the recipe for success was going to be for the 2023-24 Boston Bruins.
“We want physical,” Montgomery said bluntly following the first day of camp. “We need to be a more physical team this year than we were last year, in our opinion. So we like the physicality, and guys are fighting for jobs. So, you know, there should be physicality out there when the drill requires it.
I think we’re a little bit of a bigger and heavier team. But also, we just think that we need to be more physical at net fronts, offensively and defensively. We saw that as an area to improve from what we learned from the playoffs last year. Like I said, though, we’re going to have to be more physical because the bottom line is we won’t have the puck as much this season.”
Well, especially in their 3-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks and in their 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, the Boston Bruins have played exactly as Montgomery promised. They have gone from a high-flying, up-tempo offensive machine last season to a grinding, physical, heavy team that punishes their opponents along the boards. What Montgomery was off on, though, is that they’re possessing the puck more than expected, and they’re still re-writing NHL and Bruins history.
The new-look 2023-24 Boston Bruins actually returned home early this morning off to a better start than the record-setting 2022-23 Bruins roster. With their 4-0-0 road trip out west, this Bruins team is now tied for the best start in team history at 6-0-0. The Bruins also led the league in goals-against, allowing just 1.17 goals per game. As expected, goalies Linus Ullmark (3-0-0, 1.00 GAA, .962 save percentage) and Jeremy Swayman (3-0-0, 1,34, .957 save percentage) are the main reason for that, but it’s been clear that this team has realized quickly that scoring (13th in the NHL at a 3.17 per game clip) will not be their strength and they will need to work as a unit that can grind and tire out their opponents.
“That’s important, last game of a road trip, longer road trip,” Swayman said after earning his tenth shutout with a 23-save performance on Tuesday. “These guys took close attention to detail played the game plan perfectly. That’s special to see as a goalie, to see these guys work their butts off to get on the backcheck, taking away lanes, blocking shots, and scoring some goals in a timely manner.”
Montgomery agreed and once again pointed to that new identity of a ‘heavy’ team.
“Loved the results, loved our goaltending,” Montgomery said after the latest win on Tuesday night at The United Center. “And starting to see our team identity build because the L.A. game and this game tonight, you’re starting to see us become a heavy, grinding team, which is what I think we’re gonna have to be.”