As his fourth line remains a work in progress, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy hopes his third line can be a do-it-all group.
So far, so good.
Linemates Erik Haula and Nick Foligno were effective, and the resurgent Jake DeBrusk scored the deciding goal in Boston’s 3-1 win over Dallas on Saturday.
All three are solid NHLers, which will help ease the burden from a less experienced fourth line — currently Trent Frederic, Tomas Nosek, and Karson Kuhlman. The DeBrusk-Haula-Foligno line was a plus on Saturday, never more so than when DeBrusk hounded the puck, created a turnover, and was rewarded by pointing his compass toward the crease.
DeBrusk deposited a loose puck past Braden Holtby at 4:43 of the third. DeBrusk also had a rush to the net minutes prior that saw him pounded to the ice. After making it 2-1, DeBrusk slid on one knee, pumped his arms in the air and bumped into the glass.
“Always nice to help the team win,” DeBrusk said. “Leaning on Nick and Erik has been great for me. … Two veteran guys, they know to stick with the program. They keep telling it to me in my ear. It was nice for all of us to contribute today.”
Cassidy feels that DeBrusk, looking for a rebound after his five-goal 2020-21, is in a good place. DeBrusk, who has acknowledged the pandemic was difficult for him personally, is back on his natural left wing.
“He seems a little more engaged with the group both on and off the ice, in the gym, the meal room, everything,” Cassidy said.
Teammate Brad Marchand agreed.
“Been really happy with the way he’s played,” Marchand said. “Jake’s a guy that feeds off confidence, and he has it right now. But even the way he’s carrying himself off the ice, he has much better energy and a lot more excitement this year. He’s a guy we’ll need to rely on if we’re going to go far. He can be such a difference-maker with his speed and his ability to put pucks in around the net. You saw that tonight.”
Cassidy is known for mixing up his lines, but doesn’t expect to do so immediately. Rather than the rookie third lines of recent vintage — recall Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, and Danton Heinen getting a run several years ago — he’ll have Foligno (957 NHL games entering Saturday), Haula (456) and DeBrusk (244) in roles that are familiar to them.
“In the past I certainly have moved [players] around,” Cassidy said. “I think this year, that will be less, just because the pieces fit better than in the past. … I think if you look at our top nine, guys have played in the league. They should know the expectation of what it’s like to be an NHL player.”
A rare shot
Marchand’s penalty shot goal was a rarity. He became the third player in league history to open his team’s season scoring on a penalty shot. One of the others was Chris Kelly, who started the Bruins’ 2013-14 season with a backhand tuck against Tampa. The first was Toronto’s Mats Sundin, who scored against Ottawa in 2006. Marchand and Kelly are the only ones to score the first goal of the game … The Bruins outshot the Stars, 17-5, in the first period … Boston’s power play was 0 for 3 with three shots … Jeremy Swayman became the first Bruins rookie netminder to start a season opener since Blaine Lacher (Jan. 22, 1995). He also happens to be the only rookie on the Bruins roster … The Bruins opened the year at home for the first time since 2017 … Assistant coach and 2011 Stanley Cup champion Kelly, new on Cassidy’s staff, was showered with cheers during the pregame team introduction. The most forceful fan reaction to the coaches went to Cassidy, who responded with a thumbs up. “I only had three tickets for my family, so I don’t know,” Cassidy joked. “Something I said? I appreciate that. Thank you.” Captain Patrice Bergeron, as expected, drew the loudest ovation of anyone … Dallas goal-scorer Luke Glendening, most known for his time with the Red Wings, started his pro career with a three-game tryout in 2012 with Cassidy’s Providence Bruins … Rangy Stars blueliner John Klingberg sat out with a lower body injury … Dallas starter Holtby is a known Bruins killer. In 22 previous career games against them, all with the Capitals, he is 18-4-0 with a 1.98 goals against average, .939 save percentage, and four shutouts. His prior numbers over nine games in Boston: 7-2-0, 2.26, .932, with one shutout … Old pal Anton Khudobin who wore the backup’s ballcap, took in Friday’s Boston College-Northeastern game at Conte Forum.