It didn’t take long for the Bruins to return to their winning ways.
Powered by an energetic two-goal first period, Bruce Cassidy’s squad fought its way to a tight, 2-1, opening-night victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
It wasn’t perfect by any means, but the Bruins couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the 2019 campaign after taking down a perennial postseason squad on the first leg of a four-game road trip.
Brett Ritchie and Danton Heinen provided the offense with a pair of first-period tallies to spark the Bruins in the first 20.
But Roope Hintz cut the Boston lead to one after snapping a wrist shot over Tuukka Rask’s shoulder on a mini-breakaway thanks to an untimely line change. The ice tilted in Dallas’ favor following Hintz’s tally, but Rask stood tall with 28 saves as the Bruins shut the door on the potential comeback bid.
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins secured two points in the season opener.
The Bruins have elite defensive depth
We’re only one game down, and the Bruins’ deep blue-line has already made its mark. A mixture of speed, toughness and skill hemmed a potent Dallas attack all night.
Boston’s stout defense didn’t allow a multitude of quality looks outside of the bad line change prior to Hintz’s tally. The shorthanded unit stepped up big with timely penalty kills, as it thwarted both of Dallas’ power-play chances.
For long stretches Thursday, Charlie McAvoy was the best player on the ice for both sides. The 21-year-old continuously made plays on both ends of the ice with his signature skating ability.
When you look down the roster and see McAvoy, Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton, you are looking at one of the deepest groups in the National Hockey League. and that’s not even taking into account prospects and the injured John Moore and Kevan Miller.
Sustaining this success for an 82-game slate won’t be easy by any means, but the Bruins have themselves a fine defensive blueprint for the road ahead.
Welcome to Boston, Brett Ritchie
To those who somehow picked Ritchie in their first goal pool Thursday night, congratulations.
After a rough training camp, the newest Bruin introduced himself to his new club quickly. The veteran power forward lit the lamp against his former team just 1:09 into his Boston tenure.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 4, 2019
Ritchie, getting the opening night nod with David Krejci still day-to-day, showcased his muscle and provided glimpses of skill in his old home. He finished with two shots on net in 12 minutes, 55 seconds on the ice.
We don’t know if he’ll stick around the lineup for the long haul, especially when Krejci returns. But Ritchie, for sure, made the most of his Boston debut.
Hockey is officially back
The Bruins needed opening night more than any team around the league.
For the past four months, they had to live with the sour taste of a Game 7 defeat in the Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues. The roster had to field numerous questions regarding that stunning loss and how they plan to move on from their most bitter loss in recent memory.
The Bruins needed to just get back to playing meaningful hockey again. For a good chunk of the first period, Cassidy’s squad showed flashes of brilliance that we saw a year ago.
It wasn’t a complete 60-minute effort, however. Old habits also crept up on Boston’s power play — despite scoring once — as the Stars created a few quality shorthanded chances. But the Bruins dug deep and earned two tough points to kick off their redemption tour.