BOSTON — The Boston Bruins beat the Chicago Blackhawks in their season opener on Wednesday at TD Garden, 3-1. Coach Jim Montgomery was more satisfied with the result than the process.
“Very average,” Montgomery said of the Bruins’ team game. “I didn’t think we grew our game. But it’s the first game of the year. If I think back to our first game last year, the only thing I liked about last year more than this year was we played faster. I didn’t think we played fast enough consistently enough.”
1. The Bruins, down 1-0 in the first period, tied the game with a goal straight out of Montgomery’s playbook. It featured three elements Montgomery asked for during training camp: Skilled plays, offensive contributions from the defensemen, two on the inside.
Matt Poitras started the sequence with what has become his go-to play: Curling up on the left side with the puck in the offensive zone to buy himself time and space. As Poitras circled back and proceeded through his checklist, the 19-year-old spotted Brandon Carlo at the right point. Carlo was a better option for Poitras than proceeding with the puck himself.
“I didn’t feel I had anything,” said Poitras. “So I turned up and Carlo did a good job shifting. I just feathered it through there.”
Once Carlo received the pass, he had his head up at the net. Trent Frederic was already there. Morgan Geekie was approaching the paint. With friendly bodies in front, Carlo snapped a riser instead of a low shot. Mid-air tips are more difficult for goalies to handle than on-ice deflections. Frederic proved that point by getting a piece of Carlo’s shot and skimming it past Arvid Soderblom. The Chicago goalie didn’t have a chance.
“The first goal we scored was all his savvy and poise with the puck,” Montgomery said of Poitras and his first career NHL point.
2. By the end of the second period, former first-liner Milan Lucic was back in a familiar spot: on the No. 1 trio. Lucic, who started the night on the fourth line, earned a top-line ride with Pavel Zacha and David Pastrnak in place of James van Riemsdyk.
It was a well-earned promotion. Lucic was flying from the start, setting up Jakub Lauko for a net-front chance on the first shift.
“We had a good start,” Lucic said of the fourth line. “Our shifts were good. We spent the majority of the time in the O-zone, created a penalty. First shift, we had a scoring chance right off the get-go. We’re three guys that play straight-line hockey and we can use our size and speed.”
In the second period, Lucic set up Pastrnak to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. After Morgan Geekie executed a mid-ice stall, Lucic recovered the puck to initiate the transition game. Pastrnak finished it off with a left-dot snapper.
“He had a really good camp and he’s carrying it over,” Montgomery said. “He came here in tremendous shape. Not only what you guys see on the ice, but the way he’s talking on the bench, he’s taken over a real important leadership role of talking about how to build our team game and about the important details.”
3. Johnny Beecher will not forget his NHL debut. It was more painful than he expected.
At 3:12 of the third period, the No. 4 center slammed Cole Guttman into the wall. Moments later, Jason Dickinson came calling with his gloves off. Beecher didn’t have much time to respond.
“Unfortunately caught the guy at a little bit of an awkward angle,” said Beecher of his hit on Guttman. “It is what it is at this point. I had to turn around and face what had to come. But no problem with doing it.”
Dickinson knocked Beecher’s helmet off early. That opened the door for Dickinson to land a string of punches.
“He did well,” Lucic said of his linemate. “He could use a little work. So I could give him a few pointers. But good to see him stand up for himself there.”
4. Based on his endgame deployment, Montgomery has identified Pastrnak, Charlie Coyle and Brad Marchand as his three forwards for empty-net situations. Pastrnak is always a threat to score, like he did at 19:04 to put the game away. Coyle is the team’s best defensive center. Marchand has long been one of the league’s top two-way left wings.
Marchand set up Pastrnak’s goal by executing the exit from the defensive zone.
5. Connor Bedard led all Chicago forwards with six shots and 21:44 of ice time. The teenager was a threat all night, even after losing linemate and ex-Bruin Taylor Hall in the middle of the game because of an upper-body injury.
“Elite skill,” said Lucic. “Elite skater. Great vision. Obviously an unbelievable shot. I know he’s only two games in. But he’s going to keep getting better and better. I think he’s going to be the real deal.”
6. The Bruins opened their centennial season by welcoming back old friends. Before the game, alumni rode up the TD Garden elevator into the building, flanked by cheering fans. Prior to puck drop, representatives from the team’s six Stanley Cups and the players with retired numbers were recognized.
In the former category, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, Tim Thomas and Shawn Thornton represented the 2011 champions.
(Top photo of Milan Lucic and Linus Ullmark: Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)