The first positive take away from last nights game would have to be the play of the third line. Last season’s most disappointing line was, at least for this game, the most consistent one. Chris Kelly, Jordan Caron and Reilly Smith combined for five shots and had a goal taken away from Caron by a premature whistle late in the second period. While all three had impressive openers, the play of Chris Kelly really stood out for most of the night.
Coming off a dreadful year, Kelly looked like the talented player he was in the 2011-’12 season when he netted 20 goals, 19 assists and was a plus 33 on the ice. After getting hooked on a breakaway during a penalty kill by Tampa defenseman Mark Barberio, Kelly made an impressive move on the penalty shot scoring on a backhander past goalie Anders Linback. If Kelly can replicate the performance he had against the Lightning throughout the season, the third line for the Bruins should be a strength of the team.
While I’m on the topic of strengths, the Bruins defensive effort made a very offensively talented team look down right mediocre at times. Picking up where they left off, the NHL’s third ranked defense last year was at it again giving up only one goal to a team with the two highest point getters in the league last season in Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. Perhaps the most impressive part about only allowing one goal is the fact the Bruins had to kill off five power-plays on the night, including two 5-on-3s that were both just under a full two minutes.
As good as the Bruins looked on the penalty kill, they looked equally as bad during their own man advantage. It seemed like the television broadcast decided to show replays of last year’s special teams unit on each of Boston’s three power-play chances. The team struggled entering Tampa’s zone and putting any type of pressure on the Lightning penalty killers. Defenseman Torey Krug wasn’t able to replicate the ability to enter the zone like he did in the preseason, and Zdeno Chara had similar struggles at times during the man advantage as he looked uncomfortable in his new role playing down low. Overall last night, the Bruins looked better down a man (twice down two men), than they did when they had the man advantage. The power-play wasn’t the only disappointing thing to come from last night’s game and it too looked all too familiar to Boston fans.
For stretches of the night, the Lightning were out skating the B’s, spending a lot of time in the offensive zone. Boston had their usual periods during the game where they looked like they were simply out for a morning skate. Tampa had more hits and shots on goal on the night in large part due to the aforementioned coasting. While the Bruins eventually turned it on when they had to, it is that type of inconsistent play that could keep them from winning as many games as they should when they face tougher opponents.
After the first game of the season the Bruins are 1-0 and have shown flashes of their ability to play a tough defensive game and add some good offensive scoring chances when they play with their heads down and effort up. However, there were also times when the team seemed uninterested in doing what they needed to do in order to dictate play against an inferior opponent. The team must bring their skating game from the opening whistle, especially with a much stiffer opponent in the Detroit Red Wings coming to the TD Garden on Saturday.
The Bruins poor execution on the power-play and at times during even strength may be attributed to the unfamiliarity they have both with new teammates as well as some of the new roles they find themselves in like in the case of Chara playing down low on the man advantage. I expect the team as a whole to look sharper in their next game.
If the team hopes to be 2-0 going into Sunday, they will have to play better than they did last night. One thing is certain however, after game 1 of 82, the Boston Bruins are starting off on the right skate.