The Boston Bruins knew they would have to get off to a good start to the regular season without two of their top players. With Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy sidelined, the B’s have done just that through their first three games. Boston improved its record to 3-0-and-0 after topping the Florida Panthers 5-3 on Monday night at TD Garden.
Jake DeBrusk celebrated his 26th birthday in style. DeBrusk opened the game with his first goal of the season, an unassisted score just 21 seconds into the first period. In the past, DeBrusk has been one of the more streaky scorers for the Bruins. Boston could not have hoped for a better time for DeBrusk to get hot, he finished the game with two goals and one assist.
DeBrusk’s speed was on full display against the Panthers. He really showcased his wheels on the assist to Patrice Bergeron. DeBrusk exploded through the neutral zone to win the race to a loose puck and never quit on the play.
It would appear that the 26-year-old has responded quite positively to the change behind the bench. He is playing faster, stronger and smarter. If DeBrusk can contribute consistently throughout the season it would give the Bruins some unreal depth up front when Marchand returns.
Linus Ullmark was arguably the second star of the night. The Bruins’ netminder stopped 38 of the 41 shots he faced, including some very key saves during the second period. Ullmark made the save of the net after a Boston turnover in the neutral zone.
Sam Bennett jumped on the loose puck and skated in all alone on Ullmark, who came up with a huge save to keep the game tied at one goal apiece. Charlie Coyle would go on to win the defensive zone faceoff, which led to the rush by DeBrusk and goal by Bergeron.
Ullmark was extra sharp during the second period, especially during Florida’s power play. Boston held the Panthers scoreless on the power play in their five attempts. 10 of Ullmark’s 38 saves came while Florida had the man-advantage. The Bruins’ goaltender also stopped a couple of shorthanded chances by the Panthers.
David Pastrnak continues to prove he’s a legitimate MVP candidate. On National Pasta Day, the Bruins’ forward was an impact player in all three zones. One of the better plays of the night came when Pastrnak took the puck away from Sasha Barkov in the neutral zone during the first period. Pastrnak followed up the defensive play with a great scoring opportunity.
On Pastrnak’s goal, he showcased his improved puck handling, balance and deadly scoring touch. The average annual value continues to rise for the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure the Bruins need to lock up the 26-year-old for a long time.
The bottom six forwards continue to be rewarded for their hard work. Trent Frederic’s goal was the result of a strong forecheck from the third line. Plus, the second power play unit remains just as dangerous as the top one. Boston is getting scoring chances up and down the lineup and it’s a beautiful thing to see.
The only negatives from this game occurred in the defensive zone. Florida won the President’s Trophy last season, and still have some of the more talented players in the league. With the addition of Matthew Tkachuk the Panthers have also added some extra grit to their team.
On a handful of occasions, the Bruins were hemmed in their own zone as the Panthers controlled the puck. Florida would rotate all five of its skaters and effectively move the puck from low-to-high and across the ice, stretching Boston’s defenders and opening a lot of space for chances.
Pavel Zacha looked to be having some trouble when the Panthers scored their first goal of the game. Zacha was caught watching the puck, and lost his man as the puck found its way to the back post, and ultimately the back of the net.
Despite not allowing a power play goal, the Bruins did allow the Panthers to score in the vulnerable minute of their final penalty kill. The B’s could not control the loose puck in front of the net as Colin White banged it home to bring Florida within one goal.
Boston will have to clean up its defensive play by focusing on lifting sticks and boxing out. Still, three games into the season and the Bruins have taken care of business. The B’s head north of the border for the first time this season when they visit the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.