B's, Ducks, Bolts, and more
You’d think the world is crumbling when it comes to the 2019-20 Bruins.
I mean, this is the nature of social media -- and Boston -- as a whole. But through eight games, the natives are restless about one glaring issue: Secondary scoring. I can’t blame them, really. Jake DeBrusk’s first-period goal on Saturday night ended a 193-minute goalless stretch from every player on the Boston roster not named Patrice Bergeron or David Pastrnak.
But this isn’t anything new, really.
Let’s be honest about who the Bruins are: They’re a team powered by a superhuman first line, a lethal power play, and an elite goaltending tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. This is sorta who they were a year ago, and until a postseason that brought about a white-hot run for a third line centered by Charlie Coyle and with Marcus Johansson as an offensive zone-entry wizard.
They were this team early last season, too.
Through the first eight games of this year, the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio has accounted for 15 of Boston’s 22 goals. That’s 68.2 percent. Through the first eight games last year, that line had scored 16 of the Black and Gold’s 27 goals. That’s 59.3 percent. So you’re really talking about a nine percent difference. Now, that skews things heavily when you’re talking about early-season hockey, but given the way last year ended, with the Bergeron Line scoring 41 percent of Boston’s total goals, you know the odds will begin to tilt towards the rest of the roster’s favor. Even if it’s a slow-moving process.
The biggest difference for the Bruins this time around though? Their goaltending, which was certainly among the league’s best a year ago, has been even better out of the gate this time around.
Here are some other thoughts on their recent opponents after some up-close viewings…
- I was pleasantly surprised with the Anaheim Ducks in my first 2019-20 viewing of them. (This may be a shock, but after last year, I’m not exactly seeking out Ducks’ games as appointment viewing.) On the road, and in a 1 p.m. Eastern start, the Ducks found their legs and really took it to the Bruins in the middle period, straight-up blitzing Boston into a shell. If the Bruins weren’t getting that aforementioned all-world goaltending, it would’ve been a disaster for the B’s. John Gibson remains an absolute stud from in tight, and Ryan Getzlaf still has some nasty. Is it sustainable for an 82-game stretch? Who knows. But right now, that’s a team worth watching if they’re in your town. Even if it’s to get an advanced look at some players that could hit the trade block.
- Tampa Bay, man. I know, I know. I gush over this team every time I get another look at them.
But they’re just so deep, they’re so talented, and they’re built to win any style. In a league that’s often built around one-trick ponies and one set of standards, they’re a chameleon.
And because I’m a sucker for these debates and arguments, I entered that Thursday night meeting with a simple question: Would you rather be coming off a record-setting regular season only to get swept in the postseason or would you rather be coming off losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final?
I suppose your answer comes back to what kind of suffering you think best sets up for success the following year, but if Thursday was any indication, you’d have to think the former is better, no?
- The Leafs are, well, still the Leafs.
This team’s offensive potential is still sky-high, but you can get them spinning -- and in a hurry -- in the defensive zone. You saw this on Saturday night when the Bruins got a jolt of life by way of Jake DeBrusk’s late-period goal in the first. From there, the Bruins attempted the next 31 of 40 attempts in the game, and tied it behind a Danton Heinen power-play goal.
In other words, this strain on Freddie Andersen still feels absolutely ridiculous, and it’s tough for me to sit here and tell you that they’re better than the Bruins this time around.
Yes, yes, yes-- the Leafs are without John Tavares. But consider this: The Bruins were also without David Krejci, Joakim Nordstrom, Kevan Miller, Johnny Moore, and Patrice Bergeron was playing at less than 100 percent after blocking a Ryan McDonagh shot 48 hours before this head-to-head.
When push comes to shove, give me the team with the defensive structure to win a tight one.
But boy oh boy do I love watching these games.
Ty Anderson is a writer, columnist, and weird personality for 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, where he covers all things Boston sports. He has been covering the National Hockey League for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, and has also been part of the Boston Chapter of the PHWA since 2013. In addition to writing, Ty can occasionally be heard on the air at 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston, and seen and/or heard on the NHL Network every now and then. He will not give you his email, so yell at him on Twitter (@_TyAnderson).