With eight seconds elapsed on the second-period penalty kill, Brad Marchand attacked the Devils’ zone. The Bruins weren’t going to let the Devils start their power play for another 45 seconds. He was the main reason why.
Marchand pulled up and reversed course along the wall, curled around one check, head-faked another, and made a lightning-quick stick lift to escape the next. With space, he looped toward his own blue line, hit his defenseman safety valve. The Devils picked off a bank pass, but Patrice Bergeron poked the puck away.
New Jersey, which hasn’t scored on the power play this season (0 for 15), was on its way to an 0-for-4 night Saturday as the Bruins won, 3-0, in their home opener at TD Garden.
The Devils tried regrouping in their zone. Marchand stole the puck, pushed it ahead, got it back, worked through a cluster of three Devils defenders, then stripped a defenseman behind the net.
The crowd roared its appreciation. For a moment, the Bruins’ 2-0 lead felt like 20-0.
“Our guys are used to it,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It deflates the other team. If that’s our power play and I see a team doing that, frustration sets in from the coaching staff, the players on the ice are frustrated, so I think it more demoralizes the opposition than lifts us up. We’ve seen them go to work.”
But Chris Wagner said he and his teammates enjoy it.
“Marshy had the puck on a string,” Wagner said. “It’s pretty cool to watch him do it.”
More McAvoy needed
The Bruins were looking for more offense as they returned home, and Charlie McAvoy was an example of how that might come.
Cassidy wanted McAvoy, a gifted playmaker and puck-mover, to shoot more. He entered Saturday’s home opener with two shots and seven attempts in four games. The blossoming No. 1 defenseman has not exactly lit it up.
But while the second pairing of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo have fared well in their matchups — with those two on the ice, the Bruins have produced 62 shot attempts and allowed 30 at five-on-five, the third-best ratio of any pair with more than 40 minutes together — McAvoy and partner Zdeno Chara have had their hands full.
With the latter two, the Bruins have produced 49 attempts and allowed 66. Those numbers, courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, partly speak to their competition.
They took on the top lines of Dallas, Arizona, Vegas, and Colorado, who were trying to avoid Boston’s best defensive pair.
On the four-game road trip, Cassidy took pains to get McAvoy on the ice to handle the Nathan MacKinnons and Tyler Seguins of the league, which doesn’t make it easy to think “attack” — especially so early, with players finding their timing.
“On the road, we’re trying to get that matchup,” Cassidy said. “We’ll certainly get it at home. Maybe the flow of the game will help him, not D changing and him jumping on to get up the ice on time, coming off on a breakout knowing he’s got to get back out on the next line.
“Sometimes that happens on the road, you’re kind of yanking guys on and off, they don’t get a feel for the offensive side as a defenseman.”
On the power play, where McAvoy has attempted one shot, Cassidy said he saw more opportunities for McAvoy to fire. But his team, which was 2 for 10 on the man-advantage before going 1 for 3 Saturday night, hasn’t had much time to do so. Of teams who have played four games entering Saturday, only the Islanders saw fewer man-up opportunities.
The Devils, who dropped to 0 for 15 on their own power play, also had the worst penalty kill, having fished pucks out of the net on 7 of 13 times shorthanded. The Bruins were 1 for 3 on the power play Saturday.
Cassidy remained in wait-and-see mode with McAvoy, who put two shots on net against the Devils.
“Maybe the puck just hasn’t followed him either a little bit,” Cassidy said. “That’s part of it. Sometimes you get on those rolls where it follows you and you’re a little more confident to get in there. It’s early. We have encouraged him. Ask me again in a couple weeks, played 10-12 games and he’s still at those numbers, we’ll have to dive into it a little more.”
Ritchie in, Backes out
Right wing Brett Ritchie drew back in after taking a scratch in Colorado. He was slated to ride the third line with left wing Danton Heinen and center Charlie Coyle. David Backes was scratched, as was center/left wing Par Lindholm.
Cassidy said he did not see Backes and Ritchie as a platoon situation, but it’s clear those playing Nos. 2 and 3 right wing, as with the fourth-liners, are not set in stone.
“That’s how it’s working tonight,” Cassidy said. “Monday [against Anaheim], we’ll see where it goes.”
Karson Kuhlman, in his coach’s view, is still auditioning for the No. 2 right wing job. “We’re still keeping an eye on Koolie up there,” Cassidy said. Ritchie, Backes, and Lindholm aren’t guaranteed lineup spots, particularly with a fourth line that skated together last season — Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly, and Wagner — reunited Saturday for a second game in a row. A prospect, such as Anders Bjork, could make a push from Providence.
“It’s a little early to say who’s where,” Cassidy said. “I think we’re happy with everyone, but clearly no one’s separated themselves.”
Entering Saturday, Marchand (three) and David Pastrnak (two) had more than half of Boston’s nine goals. Marchand added his fourth in the first period. Ritchie was the only other forward to have scored at even strength . . . Cassidy confirmed Tuukka Rask, who got the shutout Saturday in his third start of the year, had no muscle issue from his start in Vegas, after which he was dehydrated. Rask has, Cassidy noted, cramped from dehydration in the past . . . Matt Grzelcyk said his left foot, which absorbed a hard wrister in Vegas, was fine. A few skaters, mostly defensive-minded defensemen, wear composite guards on their boots to protect from blocked shots. Grzelcyk, who has some of the quickest feet on the Bruins, is among those that finds them too stiff and distracting . . . Outgoing Garden PA announcer Jim Martin worked his final game. Martin, 67, first took the mic in the 1993 playoffs. The Bruins have yet to name a replacement.