Had Jim Montgomery’s wish been granted, Hampus Lindholm never would have pulled on a Black-and-Gold sweater last March.
If so, it’s quite possible Montgomery and Lindholm, ranked No. 4 in scoring this season among all NHL blueliners as of Friday morning, wouldn’t be where they are at the moment, each hoping to be part of history Saturday night when the Blackhawks come to town.
If the Bruins win, they will become only the third team in NHL history to open a new season with 11 straight wins on home ice. And to think, last March it was Montgomery’s hope that Lindholm would be dealt to St. Louis, where Montgomery at the time was a member of the Blues coaching staff.
“I was pushing hard for us to get him to St. Louis last year,” Montgomery said Friday, following the club’s brief workout in Brighton, “when they asked us as a staff if we wanted him.”
Months later, Montgomery finally got his wish to work with Lindholm when he was hired here to replace Bruce Cassidy as bench boss. Lindholm arrived on March 22 from the Ducks, in one of Don Sweeney’s boldest moves since taking over as general manager. Now, under Montgomery’s tutelage, the 28-year-old Lindholm is enjoying the best offensive production of his career.
With his assist in Thursday’s 4-1 win over the Flyers, boosting the Bruins record to 10-0-0 on Causeway Street, Lindholm improved to 4-14–18 for the season. He is on a pace to collect 87 points — what would be the highest total by a Boston blueliner since Ray Bourque posted 91 in ‘93-’94 — a quantum leap over Lindholm’s top production of 34 points in 2014-’15.
“I really didn’t study it — how they played and how they utilized him,” said Montgomery, musing over Lindholm’s lengthy time with the Ducks, who selected him No. 6 overall in the 2012 entry draft. “But I just know that he’s an all-purpose defenseman that I thought, when he was in Anaheim, that there was more in the tank there.”
Once united with the Bruins over the summer, the two had a 45-minute conversation that intrigued Montgomery about what might be to come for the 6-foot-4-inch, 215–pound backliner.
“Listening to him, he clearly loved coming to Boston,” noted Montgomery, who these days has Lindholm riding with Connor Clifton on what is the club’s No. 1 offensive D pairing. “He loved that he was in a hockey city where fans cared about us winning and losing. He wanted to be in that environment, so I think that’s really helped him.”
Jeremy Swayman likely to start vs. Chicago
In all likelihood, Jeremy Swayman will draw the start in net vs. Chicago, for what would be his first action since wrenching his left knee in his brief relief appearance for Linus Ullmark Nov. 1 in Pittsburgh.
Ullmark turned aside 22 Flyer shots Thursday and improved his league-leading mark to 12-1-0. As of Friday morning, Ullmark also led the NHL in goals against average (1.89) and save percentage (.937), the latter marks in virtual lockstep with those posted by Dominik Hasek with the 1998-99 Sabres when the Dominator won his fifth of six Vezina trophies.
Swayman was 2-1-0 in his four appearances when he exited due to injury.
Entering the season, Montgomery’s plan was to have his two tenders share a fairly even split of the workload throughout the regular season, with an eye on one becoming the No. 1 down the stretch leading to the playoffs.
Jakub Zboril misses practice with fever
Other than Patrice Bergeron (maintenance), defenseman Jakub Zboril was the only one missing from the brief workout. According to Montgomery, Zboril was excused due to illness. “He ran a fever overnight,” said the coach. In all likelihood, that means the 25-year-old blueliner will sit out again Saturday, after being scratched Thursday in favor of veteran reserve Anton Stralman, who paired with Brandon Carlo vs. the Flyers … Patrick Kane, again leading the Hawks scoring chart (2-11—13) this season, will celebrate his 34th birthday on Saturday. The Buffalo-born Kane, with 1,193 career points, is on track to be an unrestricted free agent next July. If he indeed goes to market, the Sabres, with loads of cap money to spend, are expected to make a very aggressive bid … Bruin short-timer Jarred Tinordi has suited up on the backline for all 16 of the Hawks games this season … An 11th straight win on home ice to start the season would tie the Bruins for the league mark held by the 1963-64 Hawks and the 2021-22 Panthers. The Bruins, with their their next two on the road (Tampa/Florida) aren’t back at the Garden until their Black Friday matinee vs. the Canes …The Bruins, the top PK team in the league all season, slipped into the No. 2 spot when going 7 for 10 on the kill over the last two games vs. Vancouver and Philly. The Bruins’ kill rate as of Friday morning was 90.6, a fraction below David Quinn’s No. 1 Sharks (92.0).
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.