Bruins Opening Night Takeaways: Thoughts, Observations From Win Vs. Devils

It was a positive start to the season for the B's

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January 15, 2021

The Boston Bruins started their season off with a thrilling 3-2 shootout win over the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

Here are some takeaways, thoughts and observations from Thursday night’s season opener.

— It can’t be overstated how much of a lift it’ll be for the Bruins if they get the reliable Kevan Miller of old.

Through one game, it looks like they have.

Miller drew rave reviews for his performance, which marked his first game since April 2019. He moved around well, logging a healthy 16:49 ice time, 3:10 of which came on the penalty kill.

Miller landed a pair of hits and tallied one shot on net, though he was on the ice for Miles Wood’s third-period goal.

What Miller gave the Bruins on opening night, they’ll take. With a bit more uncertainty on the left side of the defense, Miller as the steady guy he’s known to be would come as such a relief to Bruce Cassidy and Co.

That he even played Thursday is a great comeback story. It’s only enhanced by him being effective.

— It was promising that the Bruins put so much faith in Jakub Zboril and didn’t shelter him.

He looked good, too.

Getting the lion’s share of starts in the offensive and neutral zones, Zboril posted an impressive 62.07 percent Corsi For (18 For vs. 11 Against), and over 19:14 ice time, he was used in all situations. He logged over a minute on both the power play and penalty kill, and he formed a steady enough pairing with Miller.

Being an all-situations defenseman who can move the puck, while playing heavy minutes for a third-pairing blueliner, is a reality the Bruins happily will live with.

— Time will tell on the Jeremy Lauzon-Charlie McAvoy pairing, as they just need more time to develop together. It will be baptism by fire for Lauzon, who goes from a third-pairing blueliner last season to skating on a top pairing with McAvoy. He’s going to get tougher matchups.

Lauzon stuck to doing what he does well against the Devils. He was tough to move in front of the net on defense, spent a ton of time on the penalty kill and allowed McAvoy, for the most part, to play freely while he hung back to put out fires. It didn’t pan out on Ty Smith’s third-period goal, but there were other breakdowns on that play.

Cassidy is making a concerted effort to not be reactionary. Lauzon and McAvoy likely will keep getting chances.

— Good for Nick Ritchie, who had a solid opening night.

After struggling to get acclimated last season (anyone would given the circumstances), he got off on the right foot against the Devils, doing a lot of the things the Bruins had in mind when they acquired him.

Ritchie was rewarded with a goal for wreaking havoc in front of the net all night, finishing with four shots on net over 11:16 ice time (two minutes came on the man advantage) and a 71.43 Corsi For percentage.

If the Bruins can get Ritchie to cause trouble in front of the net while playing with edge, they’ll be cooking with gas.

Now for some more rapid-fire thoughts.

— Matt Grzelcyk looked comfortable quarterbacking the top power-play unit. It was nice to see him so ready to shoot, as well. He finished with six shots on net.

— Both Anders Bjork and Trent Frederic looked great in the first period. They tailed off a bit the rest of the game, but it was promising.

— Tuukka Rask looked really comfortable. Given his generally easygoing disposition, that’s unsurprising, but it was encouraging that even though he got run twice by Miles Wood, he never wobbled mentally. That’s vintage Rask.

— Jack Studnicka will need time to develop at the NHL level, especially if he’s going to play on the top line. He might not log as heavy of minutes as Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but it’s good his leash isn’t too short. He played 11:40, with 1:41 coming on the penalty kill.

— We’re interested to see how the baseball-style series impacts bad blood from previous games. The Bruins and Devils play again Saturday, and they’re coming off a game in which Rask kept getting run into. We’ll see what carries over.

Thumbnail photo via Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports Images
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