Bruins takeaways: Why bounce-back win vs. Jets was encouraging originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Bruins hit a rough patch over the last week or so -- at least by their standards -- with three losses in a four-game span, including back-to-back defeats in regulation for the first time all season.
It was their worst stretch of the 2022-23 campaign aside from losing four of five around the All-Star break. The Bruins responded to that late January/early February slump by going on a 10-game win streak.
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Will we see something similar unfold in the coming weeks?
The Bruins needed a bounce back Thursday night and they got it. A 3-0 win over a very good Winnipeg Jets team on the road is just what the doctor ordered for Boston.
Here are a few takeaways from the win that will impact the team through the end of the regular season.
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Avoiding a bad start
Slow starts have been a huge issue for the Bruins of late.
- March 11 vs. Red Wings: Trailed 2-0 after first period
- March 12 at Red Wings: 1-0 after period, 4-1 after second period
- March 14 at Blackhawks: Trailed 1-0 after first period
The Bruins have been great at erasing deficits this season. Their 17 victories and .585 win percentage when trailing first both rank No. 2 in the league behind the New Jersey Devils. But at some point, constantly playing from behind catches up with you, and the Bruins need to get back to being aggressive early in games and putting opponents on their heels.
They did this against the Jets. Trent Frederic scored just 50 seconds into the game and then Pavel Zacha doubled Boston's advantage later in the period.
The Bruins are 34-1-3 when they score first. They are a tough team to play against when the opponent is chasing the game. The Jets found out first hand Thursday night.
Penalty kill steps up in huge way
The Bruins' penalty kill has been the best in the league pretty much the entire season, and it still ranks No. 1 with a 85.7 percent success rate.
But in the five games before Thursday, the Bruins' PK was 30th in the league at a 58.8 percent rate. Boston allowed power-play goals in four of those five games and five goals in total.
Thursday against the Jets was a step in the right direction for the Bruins as their penalty kill got back on track. The Jets had five power plays and didn't score on any of them.
Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman made a couple huge stops shorthanded and finished with 10 saves on the penalty kill -- four of which were on high-danger scoring chances.
Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort all played 4:00 of ice time or more on the penalty kill and did a tremendous job battling for 50-50 pucks, clearing the zone and blocking shots.
Killing penalties is one of the primary strengths of this Bruins team, and they'll need this unit playing at an elite level to reach the Stanley Cup Final in June. Therefore, it was definitely encouraging for the B's that the penalty kill regained its dominant form versus a Jets power play that features some impressive talent, such as Kyle Connor.
Rest Derek Forbort
Bruins defenseman Derek Forbort has been rock solid on the blue line this season. He's been especially effective on the penalty kill, where he blocks shots, clears traffic from the front of the net and uses his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame to win possession and battle for 50-50 pucks.
Forbort blocked a shot off his right leg late in the second period Thursday and didn't return. He was ruled out in the third period with a lower body injury. Matt Porter of The Boston Globe reported that Forbort was "wearing a walking boot on his right leg after the game." Montgomery told reporters after Thursday's win that Forbort probably won't play on the rest of the road trip, which ends Sunday in Buffalo.
Forbort missed most of November with an upper body injury suffered against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 1. At that point, the B's ranked No. 1 in penalty killing. They ranked 20th on the penalty kill during the time he missed in November. Since he returned on Nov. 29, the Bruins are No. 2 in penalty killing -- 0.2 percent behind the Carolina Hurricanes during that span.
The veteran defenseman leads the Bruins in blocked shots (28), hits (22) and time on ice per game (3:08) on the penalty kill. If he misses a significant amount of time, that would be a huge setback for the Bruins' penalty kill.
The Bruins should give Forbort as much rest as possible through the end of the regular season, and with seven good defensemen on the NHL roster (including Forbort), they have enough bodies to make this happen.
Jeremy Swayman rebounds after back-to-back losses
Boston's backup goalie struggled in his two previous outings, giving up three goals in a loss to the Oilers last Thursday and four goals to the Red Wings in a loss Sunday.
Swayman bounced back in Winnipeg by stopping all 36 shots he faced for his third shutout of the season.
"He was terrific," Montgomery told reporters after the game. "That might have been his best game of the year, and he's had a lot of good ones. Just his tracking and control, he didn't let any rebounds out."
The Bruins will need Swayman to be on top of his game the rest of the regular season. They are in good shape as far as the standings are concerned, but you want to be playing your best hockey come playoff time. Goaltending has been the No. 1 strength of this team all season, and bringing positive momentum at that position into the postseason would be huge for the B's.