Much to the chagrin of the rest of the hockey world, the Boston Bruins demise has been greatly exaggerated…. again.
The 2023-24 NHL season is just over two weeks old and the Bruins are one of just three teams yet to lose a game. The defense and goaltending have been as advertised, leading the NHL with just seven goals allowed through six games. Ullmark and Swayman have picked up where they left off last (regular) season, with both sporting Save %s above .950.
What has been the biggest surprise so far is the offense. Goal scoring was a question mark for the Bruins heading into this year, but so far they have scored at least three goals in every game. Pastrnak and Marchand have lead the charge as expected, setting the pace in both goals and points. However, the next two names behind them may come as a surprise; James van Riemsdyk and Matthew Poitras.
JVR has chipped in three goals and two assists in six games. His power forward style of play has had an immediate impact as a net front presence on the man advantage, as three of his points have come on the power play. He scored a pair of PPGs against Nashville, including the game winner, and assisted on Pastrnak’s opener in Los Angeles.
Matthew Poitras has carried his momentum over from the preseason and has been an early revelation for the B’s.
The 19-year-old rookie has scored three goals in six games and has been one of Boston’s most dangerous forwards. He scored the first two goals of his career in Anaheim, both in the third period. He added a third goal against Chicago off an excellent solo rush.
Moneypuck.com rates Poitras as one of the Bruins best drivers of offense so far, recording a 57.6% share of expected goals when he’s on the ice. In other words, Boston is controlling possession and getting more scoring chances during his shifts. For team who’s biggest question mark was scoring depth down the middle, Poitras has been exactly what the Bruins needed.
The biggest early critique for the Bruins would be their strength of schedule. Of their six wins to start the season, Los Angeles was the only team to make the playoff last year. Even though Boston won 4-2, LA held a sizeable shot advantage and challenged Swayman all night.
The next stretch of games will be an early litmus test to see how good these Bruins actually are.
Following the Anaheim game on Thursday, seven of Boston’s next thirteen games leading into Thanksgiving will come against playoff teams from a year ago. The other six games will come against Detroit (who lead the league in goal scoring), Buffalo (a dark horse playoff contender) and Montreal (what else needs to be said?).
Photo: Ryan Sun / AP