As straightforward because it is likely to be to chalk up the Bruins’ 13-1-2 begin this season to their elite goaltending, such regular success can’t be attributed to only one section of the roster.
Star gamers like David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy have delivered beneath heavy minutes. An impromptu youth motion has injected a much-needed spark on the ice.
And Don Sweeney’s free-agent spending spree within the clearance part has yielded robust returns in gamers like James van Riemsdyk (12 factors in 16 video games).
But when Boston was going to have any hope of replicating a number of the success it achieved throughout final season’s record-setting run, it was going to wish two veterans to drag their weight on the heart place.
Following within the footsteps of two franchise pillars in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci was an unenviable train for each Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha — given the lofty expectations saddled on their shoulders.
However by the primary month of the 2023-24 season, Brad Marchand and the Bruins haven’t seen a lot of a drop-off between the excessive requirements set by the outdated guard and the brand new top-six duo.
“Pav, he’s such a gifted participant — very related thoughts to Bergy in the best way that he performs and defends and a particularly harmful risk within the offensive zone,” Marchand stated after Boston’s 5-2 win over Montreal on Saturday. “So he’s feeling very snug in that center spot there now and it’s nice to see him thrive.”
Coyle’s stout defensive recreation and the spectacular chemistry cast subsequent to Trent Frederic final season has carried over into 2023-24 — with the 31-year-old ahead (5 targets, 9 assists) on tempo for the primary 70-point season of his 12-year NHL profession.
However to not be outdone, Zacha has held up his finish of the cut price as each a Swiss Military Knife in Jim Montgomery’s ahead corps — in addition to a potent play-driver on a high line with Marchand and David Pastrnak.
Following his one-timer tally towards the Habs on Saturday, Zacha is on tempo for 31 targets and 67 whole factors this season — each career-highs.
Solely Marchand (19:15) has logged extra ice time per recreation amongst Bruins forwards than Zacha (19:11), who ranks fourth on the group in common power-play reps (3:41 per recreation) and second amongst Boston forwards in penalty-kill minutes (2:10 per recreation).
Zacha’s capacity to raise his play right into a featured function inside Boston’s lineup has been wanted, given the turnover up entrance over the summer season.
However it hasn’t essentially been a shock for Montgomery and the remainder of the Bruins, particularly after the promise that the 26-year-old pivot showcased in his first season with Boston.
As soon as seen as a possible middle-six contributor when Boston plucked him from New Jersey in a one-for-one swap for Erik Haula, Zacha shortly developed right into a second-line stalwart subsequent to Krejci and Pastrnak.
After posting a career-high 36 factors in 2021-22 with the Devils, Zacha surpassed that scoring mark by 21 factors the next yr with Boston (57 factors in 82 video games). In 12 video games the place Zacha slotted over at heart rather than both Bergeron or Krejci, he scored 4 targets and posted 10 factors.
“We noticed him take an enormous step in his confidence in November ,” Montgomery stated earlier this yr of when he knew Zacha might maintain his personal as a top-six heart. “Simply in his perception to combat by stuff. Then we noticed him once we began utilizing him at heart due to Bergy and Krech. … He actually relished the chance to play extra minutes.
“After which there was a recreation in Carolina the place he was actually dominant. We didn’t have both one [Bergeron and Krejci] of them enjoying. There was a recreation at residence towards Tampa Bay. It was the primary recreation I assumed we had the place it was actual near playoff depth. And he rebounded in that recreation. I feel he discovered one other stage of depth inside himself. And that carried — we performed the subsequent evening in Carolina and it carried over.”
Montgomery’s most up-to-date lineup reshuffle has planted Zacha in the midst of a top-heavy ahead group alongside each Marchand and Pastrnak. And though his supporting solid is spectacular in their very own proper, Zacha has not seemed misplaced.
Within the 79 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time that the Marchand-Zacha-Pastrnak line has logged collectively, the Bruins are outscoring opponents, 7-2. However past the tangible manufacturing that Zacha is churning out, Montgomery believes that the 6-foot-4 ahead’s defensive recreation can be making strides.
“He performs essentially the most minutes of any ahead due to how we use him in each scenario,” Montgomery stated Saturday. “And he performs arduous minutes. He’s a glue man that connects — particularly when he’s enjoying with Marchy and Pasta.
“He does quite a lot of work coming again and getting pucks as much as them — very a lot much like what Bergy used to do and it went unnoticed and I feel what Pav is doing goes unnoticed.”
The finer particulars of Zacha’s recreation is likely to be flying beneath the radar at this stage of the season.
However it’s getting harder and harder to disregard the tangible manufacturing being generated each time Zacha hops over the boards.
The Bruins haven’t any qualms about that.
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