The Bruins opened their season with a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night at Capitals One Arena in a game that featured the return of David Krejci and David Pastrnak picking up right where he left off last year.
Boston still has some kinks to work out, but it’s only Game 1 and the Bruins looked comfortable under Jim Montgomery.
Here are six takeaways from the win.
The Czech line works
Even with Taylor Hall healthy enough to play after sustaining an upper-body injury in the preseason, Montgomery elected to keep Pavel Zacha, Krejci and Pastrnak together on the second line. The trio showed incredible chemistry in two preseason games and that translated to regular season action. They combined for eight points on the night.
“It’s great that we got a win. And as a line, we chipped in,” Krejci told reporters after the game. “At the same time, our second period wasn’t the strongest for our line. We talked about it, and we came out strong in the third.”
The second period saw the Capitals make it a one-goal game, but two goals in the third — including one from Krejci — helped lift the B’s to victory.
It would be wise for Montgomery to keep the Czech line together even when Brad Marchand returns at some point likely next month. The Bruins very well could have two of the best lines in the NHL once fully healthy.
David Krejci is back
Krejci played in his first game since Game 6 of the second round of the 2020-21 Stanley Cup playoffs against the New York Islanders and scored his first goal in 531 days to give the Bruins some insurance over the Capitals.
If the veteran center had any rust, you could hardly tell. Krejci amassed 17:53 of ice time and had an assist on Patrice Bergeron’s opening goal, which came on the power play. The 36-year-old clearly still can play at a high level and didn’t make many mistakes, but the second period got the best of Krejci, who was on the ice for both of Washington’s second-period goals.
“Yeah, sometimes I have fun. Sometimes I don’t,” Krejci told reporters. “In the second period when I back-checked twice and they scored, that wasn’t fun. But yeah, when I have the puck on my tape, and I make some plays, then that’s fun.”
He certainly made plays and ones that helped give the Bruins the first win of the season.
Defense misses Charlie McAvoy but fared just fine
Between having a new head coach and being without their top pairing in McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk, the Bruins were bound to have some problems on defense. We saw some of those problems highlighted in that second period after Pastrnak’s shot attempt somehow turned into a 3-on-1 that Linus Ullmark ultimately couldn’t stop. Montgomery preaches the importance of limiting odd-man rushes, but he knows the shot Pastrnak took is one they’ll take every chance they get.
“The one goal that we gave up was an odd-man rush. I know both were … but the (goal Sheary scored), Pasta has the puck in the slot because since the defenseman goes backdoor, he’s wide open. And we’re going to take that every time,” Montgomery told reporters. “It’s a blocked shot that goes the other way. That’s hockey.”
Not having McAvoy in the lineup doesn’t automatically stop either of those goals, but having his size back on the ice will be a welcome boost to the blue line.
Jakub Lauko should remain in the lineup
Lauko made his NHL debut Wednesday night after working hard at his craft for the last few seasons. While the forward didn’t appear on the scoresheet, he made his presence known on the ice with three hits. He earned praise from Montgomery after the game for energy he brought to the bottom six, and even Pastrnak noticed what he brought while Lauko was on the ice.
“He created big momentum for us,” Pastrnak told reporters. “Even though we didn’t get a goal on those (power plays), I think on the first (power play) we had a bunch of good looks, but they didn’t go in obviously. It created momentum and pulled our group together.”
Linus Ullmark helped B’s win
All week Montgomery was tight-lipped about who the Bruins would start in net. Even Wednesday after practice he wouldn’t fully commit, but Ullmark answered the call and stopped 33 of 35 shots he faced and has a .943 save percentage to begin the season. Thirteen of his 33 saves came in the first period and helped keep the one-goal lead Boston had safe.
Goaltending will be crucial for the Bruins especially while they’re short-handed due to injuries. There were a few odd-man rushes that shouldn’t have happened, but if goaltending can stand on their heads, the season should get off to a good start.
David Pastrnak only is getting better
As if there was any doubt Pastrnak would slow down. The second-line forward dazzled with four points on the night and led the team with six shots during his 19:03 of ice time. It probably helps to have Krejci back, too, and a full season of Pastrnak and Krejci is going to be very fun for Bruins fans and not-so-fun for opponents.
Of course, the looming contract extension will be a storyline all season until something gets done. General manager Don Sweeney said the two sides are talking every day and Pastrnak has expressed optimism about remaining in Black and Gold. Still, Pastrnak’s performance Wednesday certainly should urge the Bruins to get an extension done sooner rather than later.