Once again, the Boston Bruins have shaken off a brief bout of adversity and started a winning streak.
After a disappointing 6-3 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, the third-worst team in the NHL, the Bruins reeled off wins over the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, and Buffalo Sabres.
The Bruins are now in the midst of their ninth win streak of three or more games – six of those three-game winning streaks have become streaks of four or longer.
The team’s ascension out of a disappointing stretch of games comes courtesy of strong performances from several Bruins.
The most important came from Jeremy Swayman, who bounced back from a bad game against the Detroit Red Wings last week to dominate this week.
Not Swaying This Week
Swayman’s player of the week honor could be described in one short stat line: Two wins in two starts, 62 shots against, and 62 saves.
But it was so much more than that. The clutch timing of Swayman’s performances helped lift the team out of a funk and ease fears that this team had “peaked too early.”
He played so well in his shutout against the Winnipeg Jets that coach Jim Montgomery said of his performance, “That might have been his best game of the year and he’s had a lot of good ones.”
This week wasn’t one of those weeks where Swayman enjoyed a shutout thanks to the staunch defense in front of him, where he faced a low number of shots, mostly from low-danger areas with full sight of the puck. Swayman had to cover for some weak defense.
The Jets outshot the Bruins by 12 shots, 36-24, and according to naturalstattrick.com, out-possessed the Bruins in every period but the second, where their Corsi-for percentage was tied at 50 at 5-on-5.
The Jets had more high-quality scoring chances and stretches of play where they dominated. Swayman’s excellence allowed the Bruins’ efficient offense to do its thing and slowly build to a 3-0 victory (with one empty netter).
Though the Bruins thoroughly dominated the Buffalo Sabres on the scoreboard, the Sabres weren’t without their chances in that game. The Sabres outshot Boston in that game and had five more high-danger scoring chances (15-10) than the Bruins did.
Most people who watched the game wouldn’t have actually said, “whoa that game was closer than it looked on the scoreboard.” The Bruins took control early, but once again, Swayman’s play allowed his team to tighten the noose slowly.
One underrated aspect of Swayman’s play in Buffalo was his play with the puck. Though Linus Ullmark leads the goalie scoring contest 1-0 over Swayman, Swayman showed he has become very comfortable with the puck. On multiple occasions, he caught a puck and elected to play it to one of his teammates and even cleared a puck during a penalty kill.
Here are some of Swayman’s many highlights this week. This save maintained the 1-0 Bruins lead at the tail end of a Winnipeg power play (with some help from McAvoy).
Here Swayman maintains his shutout over Buffalo with two lightning-quick saves before freezing the puck.
Though he is more positionally sound, Swayman is starting to look like our era’s version of Mike Richter, with his penchant for going into the splits as he goes side-to-side in his net, with the occasional flashy glove save mixed in.
Honorable Mention: Patrice Bergeron
As has often been the case this season, honorable mention could have been multiple players.
The first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk turned around its fortunes after Chicago and had a dominant finish to the week to the tune of 16 points in four games.
Marchand had a subtle but strong week with six assists, while DeBrusk and Bergeron played to their strengths, with DeBrusk using his speed and skill in front of the net and Bergeron playing his usual brand of two-way hockey. Ultimately, the edge goes to Bergeron.
His two goals were prime examples of why he’s called a “two-way player,” coming on plays that began with Bergeron tending to his defensive responsibility in the offensive zone only to use that to his offensive advantage (I know it sounds confusing).
In both situations, Bergeron skated to the point to help his defensemen defend the opposing team’s breakout. When the Bruins regained the puck, Bergeron’s positioning and timing helped him elude coverage and score on passes from behind the net, both from Marchand.
His game-opening goal in Buffalo was nearly identical.
Bergeron also helped the Bruins’ floundering power play regain some confidence with a short pass to David Pastrnak that he deposited in the net against the Sabres.
But perhaps the most “Bergeron” thing Bergeron did this week was win faceoffs. He finished the week having won nearly 70% of his faceoffs, a full 10% better than Charlie Coyle, who was second among centers in faceoff percentage last week. (For the record Bergeron’s career faceoff percentage is 58.9 percent.)
His worst performance came against Minnesota, where he still won 57% of his faceoffs. It goes without saying that a team that uses its high skill level to generate quality chances over a larger quantity of shots still needs to have the puck in its possession to do that. Bergeron’s success at the faceoff dot this week helped the Bruins to be as efficient as they were.
Connor Clifton - 1
Taylor Hall - 1
Garnet Hathaway - 1
Charlie McAvoy - 1
David Pastrnak - 1
Jeremy Swayman - 2
Linus Ullmark - 2