Bruins

3 takeaways from the Bruins’ preseason opener

The team finds standout outings despite lack of finish.

Boston Bruins' Chris Wagner skates during a preseason NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

A handful of Boston Bruins had a chance to make an initial impression during their preseason opener against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Indeed, the Bruins had garnered a handful of quality chances against Philadelphia’s goaltending tandem of Felix Sandstrom and Troy Grosenick. But Saturday’s mix of younger prospects and veterans hoping to make a roster spot struggled to light the lamp for most of their first exhibition of the year.

The Bruins didn’t waver, however, and finally found the back of the net on a Jakub Lauko wrist shot from the slot to even things up at 12:50 of the final frame. But they still fell short in the end as the Cates brothers — Noah and Jackson — potted both of Philadelphia’s goals at 1:42 in the second and 15:20 of the third, respectively, in the B’s 2-1 setback.

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The result is a mere footnote as the two teams began their talent evaluation ahead of impending roster decisions. So who stood out for the Bruins? Here’s what we learned from Saturday’s tilt at Wells Fargo Center.

Boston Bruins’ Jakub Lauko celebrates after his goal during the third period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Lauko finally reaped the benefits

Injuries and inconsistent production hampered Lauko’s development during his first few seasons in the Bruins’ organization. Because of that, the Czech finds himself fighting for one of the first call-up spots from Providence instead of fighting for one of the bottom-six vacancies in Boston.

A solid preseason could provide Lauko with some needed confidence. On Saturday, he made a solid impression in the offensive end, generating quality chances from the slot and the front of the goalmouth en route to four shots on net. On a night where everyone from Nick Foligno and Tomas Nosek to John Beecher and Fabian Lysell struggled to finish their chances, Lauko finally reaped the benefits of his solid performance with his third-period equalizer.

A healthy Lauko will likely begin the year in a top-nine role in Providence. With consistent offensive production at the AHL level, Lauko could provide the Bruins with an intriguing option for their I-95 pipeline.

Boston Bruins’ Jakub Zboril looked comfortable and assertive in the offensive, defensive and neutral zones. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Jakub Zboril impressed in his first action since injury

At this point last year, the Bruins looked poised for whiffing on all three of their 2015 first-round selections. Jake DeBrusk came off the worst season of his career during the 2021 pandemic-shortened season. And neither Jakub Zboril nor Zach Senyshyn proved they could handle the daily life of the NHL lifestyle.

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DeBrusk had a bounce-back year in 2021-22 and eventually rescinded his trade request. Zboril appeared prime for a similar breakthrough performance before sustaining a torn ACL last November.

Despite the disappointing setback, the Bruins brought Zboril back for the 2022-23 campaign. The Czech blue-liner went from a seventh or eighth defenseman candidate a year ago to a favorite of securing an opening night roster spot as Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy rehab from their respective off-season shoulder surgeries.

The shortage of right-shot blue-line options prompted Jim Montgomery and the new coaching staff to move the left-shot Zboril to his opposite hand to start camp. Zboril looked comfortable and assertive in the offensive, defensive and neutral zones in his first game action on right-side duty, tallying a pair of shots on net and a game-high 25:05 time on ice.

Chris Wagner picked up where he left off

The Walpole native encountered a dark two-year tenure with the Bruins organization. The lowest point of Wagner’s career came at the end of last year’s preseason when the team assigned him to Providence upon clearing waivers.

Wagner regained his confidence in Providence, providing energy, scoring production, and experience for the Baby B’s. He eventually earned his well-deserved call-up for Boston’s regular-season finale in Toronto. An 11-hit performance against the Maple Leafs prompted the Bruins to keep him aboard for the playoffs, where he appeared in three games in the first-round series with the Hurricanes.

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With every spot on the fourth line seemingly up for grabs, Wagner picked up where he left off. In a rather highly physical preseason tilt, Wagner landed a game-high eight hits and added a shot on goal in 15:51 of ice time.

In a competitive camp with a handful of open spots, Wagner has stood out in his quest to regain his fourth-line role. At this rate, it’s hard to imagine Wagner returning to Providence anytime soon.

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