3 Takeaways From Bruins’ Perfect 3-Game California Road Trip
For the second time in a month, the Boston Bruins had a three-game West Coast road trip and for the second time in a month, the Black and Gold were able to have a successful trip. After winning two of their three games in December, Boston swept the games by outscoring their opponents by a 16-5 margin to head home with the NHL’s best record at 32-4-4.
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There were many different storylines on the three-game trip for the Bruins who continue to battle through some adversity during their historic start to the season. Here are three takeaways from the four-day trip that had some surprise heroes on it.
Frederic Leads Bruins to Revenge Victory Over Kings
There haven’t been too many times this season where the Bruins have entered a game looking to revenge an earlier loss, but that was the case when they kicked off the trip on Jan. 5 against the Los Angeles Kings. On Dec. 15, the Black and Gold held a 2-0 lead entering the third period at home, but surrendered two goals to Adrian Kempe, including a power play tally to tie the game with 2:10 left, before losing in a seven-round shootout.
Tied 2-2 entering the final period on the road, the Bruins were able to score three goals in the final 9:24, including two from third-line forward Trent Frederic, for a 5-2 victory. In fact, Frederic scored both goals on the same shift, 34 seconds apart, to stake Boston to a two-goal lead. The 2022-23 season is the best in the 29th overall pick of the 2016 Entry Drafts career as his two tallies give him a career-high nine goals. It has taken some time, but the former University of Wisconsin standout is rounding his pro game into form.
Pastrnak Keys Perfection & Czechia Lines
The Bruins were dealt a tough blow following the Winter Classic when it was announced that Jake DeBrusk fractured his fibula and will miss a significant amount of time on the first line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Coach Jim Montgomery moved David Pastrnak to the top line and reunite the “Perfection Line’’ and the trio played like they have not skipped a beat this season with Pastrnak on the second line.
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Against the Kings, Pastrank tallied two goals and Marchand chipped with a goal and two assists. Two nights later on Jan. 7 in a 4-2 win over the San Jose Sharks, it once again was the trio putting the Bruins over the top. Marchand opened the scoring just 1:03 into the game before adding two more assists. In the third period, Pastrnak scored his third goal of the trip when the line combined for a tic-tac-toe passing play that resulted in a two-goal lead. They combined for five of the nine goals in the first two games of the trip and can be a big reason why Boston can try and survive the loss of DeBrusk.
Against the Anaheim Ducks, Montgomery moved Pastrnak back to the second line with David Krejci and Pavel Zacha and it immediately paid off. Pastrnak and Krejci scored in the first period, before two goals for Pastrnak in the second period 17 seconds apart for a hat trick gave the Bruins a commanding 4-1 lead. Krejci finished the game with two assists with his goal and Zacha added two assists. For the trip, Pastrnak had seven goals and upped his total to 32.
Ullmark Gets Just One Game on Trip and Impresses…… Again
Boston has the NHL’s top goalie in Linus Ullmark, but the leaders in wins, goals-against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%) played just one of the three games, but the one game he did play, he once again stood on his head with some big timely saves. Against the Sharks, he stopped 28 of the 30 shots he faced, including all 15 in the third period, to improve to 22-1-1 with a 1.87 GAA and a .938 SV%.
His three biggest saves came in the final period and all three in the final six minutes when San Jose applied their most consistent pressure. On the power play, Logan Couture collected the puck in the slot and his backhander was gloved by Ullmark on a split save. Seconds later, Tomas Hertl was alone at the side of the net and the Bruins goalie was able to get his pad on Hertl’s attempt. At the horn, Ullmark stopped Couture, once again, this time wide open at the bottom of the left circle with a sliding save on a one-timer from the Sharks captain. It was not going to be a goal that was the difference in the outcome, but a goal there would have extended Erik Karlsson’s point streak to 15 games for the hosts.
Swayman won both of his starts on the trip. He made 27 saves against the Kings, before making 28 against Anaheim after allowing a first-period goal to Trevor Zegras. Playing Swayman in two of the three games was the right move as it gives Ullmark more time off and gets him ready for a tough upcoming homestand.
After a three-day break, the Bruins return home to face what could be considered their two toughest games of the first half of the season. On Jan. 12, they host the streaking Seattle Kraken, winners of four in a row, and they currently sit in third place in the Pacific Division and looking for their first postseason berth in just their second season. On Jan. 14, the Toronto Maple Leafs make their first appearance at the TD Garden and the team’s second game of the season, with Toronto winning the first matchup on Nov. 5, 2-1 at home. The Black and Gold will be carrying their 22-game unbeaten streak at home into the homestand and will have to play some of their best hockey if they are going to keep the streak going against two very good teams.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.