The Boston Bruins posted a character win over the Philadelphia Flyers during their home opener Thursday night. On Saturday, Bruce Cassidy’s squad flat out dominated a Broad St. Bullies bunch playing their fourth game in six days.
A new look third line of Trent Frederic, Craig Smith, and Charlie Coyle provided an initial spark for the Bruins. All three forwards found the scoresheet, with Smith and Coyle each tallying a goal and an assist each and Frederic recording his first career assist. Their impact went beyond the written stat lines, helping their club in more ways than one.
Boston’s power play added to the onslaught with a 3-for-4 outing highlighted by Patrice Bergeron’s pair and Brad Marchand’s second tally of the final stanza.
“Philly is a big team, and I thought we pushed them hard tonight,” Cassidy said following Boston’s 6-1 victory. “They came in here [playing] their fourth game in six days — and on the road — so we wanted to make sure we made it hard, and we’re going to try to do that every night.”
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s first regulation win in 2021.
Trent Frederic is proving his worth
The second of Boston’s 2016 first-round selections never shied away from contact whenever he received a callup from Providence. After all, he dropped the gloves the very first time he donned the Spoked ‘B’ in Jan. 2019.
Fredric never stuck around in Boston long enough to make a bigger impact. Despite that, the former Wisconsin Badger kept grinding in Providence, providing the Baby B’s with muscle and a decent scoring touch.
With David Pastrnak injured, Frederic found himself in a heated training camp battle for a bottom-six roster spot. Frederic earned his stripes in the opening series against the Devils, notably getting under P.K. Subban’s skin during that two-game stint. He hasn’t looked back since.
“It’s a pretty good skill to have — especially for a younger guy — and he’s done it pretty well,” Coyle said of Frederic’s abrasiveness. “Coming into camp this year, you could tell he’s ready. You can tell he’s putting the work in during the off-season, and he’s earned it. He’s gotten better and better as the weeks go by and he’s making a difference.”
With a promotion to the third line, Frederic returned to his penalty-drawing ways on Saturday, leading to Boston’s two of three power-play tallies. Flyers defenseman Mark Friedman witnessed Frederic’s hard-nosed style firsthand, starting with a first-period hooking call.
With a three-goal cushion, Fredric struck against Friedman again, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct minor.
“Anytime we can help [the power play] get out there, it helps our chances of winning,” Fredric said of his penalty-drawing traits.
Frederic no doubt earned his spot with a strong camp. In 14:31 of ice time Saturday, he strengthened his case to stay with the big club after tallying three shots on net, a pair of hits, and a stellar feed to Coyle for his first career assist.
The power play clicked on all cylinders
Torey Krug left a gaping hole on the top power-play unit when he departed for St. Louis in the off-season. Matt Grzelcyk, who had his share of minutes on that top unit whenever Krug missed time, moved up from the second man-advantage squad to start for the first four games.
Grzlecyk missed Saturday’s tilt following some rough collisions earlier in the week against in Long Island and back home on Causeway St. Charlie McAvoy and Jakub Zboril each had their shot point-man duties with a group consisting of Marchand at the bumper, Bergeron at the slot, David Krejci at the half-wall and Nick Ritchie in front.
Boston’s potent man-advantage unit didn’t miss a beat. They converted on all but one of their chances. On two occasions, they lit the lamp in under 20 seconds of power-play time — both coming off Bergeron’s stick.
“The power play was really snapping it around,” Frederic said. “It was fun to watch those guys when they got out there.
The Bruins added some needed 5v5 scoring, netting six even-strength tallies in the last 85 minutes of hockey. They’ll only improve with that consistent scoring, be it on special teams or even-strength.
Craig Smith and Jakub Zboril add to a night of firsts
With a transitioning roster, the Bruins looked for internal and external help to fill vacancies. In one move, the Bruins brought in Smith from Nashville to help with even-strength and secondary scoring situations. In another, they called on Zboril to provide some offense on the blue-line, hoping that he’d finally breakthrough at the NHL level.
Smith, nor Zboril, have disappointed so far. The veteran forward and rookie defenseman added firsts of their own during Saturday’s blowout.
First came Smith, who put the Bruins ahead for good, scoring his first goal with his new club. The five-time 20-goal scorer put the Bruins ahead for good in the second period after banking home a rebound past Carter Hart a mere 1:16 after Kevin Hayes netted Philly’s lone tally.
Come the third, Zboril helped add insult to injury with a secondary assist on Marchand’s power play tally for his first NHL point.
Smith caught Cassidy’s eye with his growing chemistry with Coyle. Zboril, a 2015 first-round selection with a mere seven NHL games to his credit, also garnered Cassidy’s attention, especially with his solid puck pursuit and keen transition game.
“He’s showing lots of courage and lots of poise all wrapped into one,” Cassidy said about Zboril. “We knew he could make good plays. So now he’s going in winning those [puck] battles and has the confidence to compete against men.”
Whether it’s dominance from the top-line — with or without Pastrnak — or the middle of the lineup picking up the slack, the Bruins will use any scoring output they can get. On Saturday, Cassidy’s four lines and three defensive pairs commanded the pace of play in their second of eight meetings with the Flyers.
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