Start to the 2023-24 NHL season was perfect for the Boston Bruins. After losing numerous key players, including club great Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, the Bruins started Monday tied atop the Eastern Conference with a 19-5-5 record (43 points).
The Bruins only lost two consecutive once this season. Top save %, second in goals against, and first in penalty kill. Despite scoring 18th, most Bruins players have contributed. Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha are nearing career highs. David Pastrnak may go for Hart Trophy again. Through 29 games, Jeremy Swayman is the league's top goalkeeper and a Vezina candidate.
Following the announcement that rookie center Matthew Poitras would play for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney spoke with media Monday. He was asked about his team's progress.
"We're optimistic about our club," Sweeney remarked. "We told them our hockey club will be a work in progress with growing pains. We challenged our group's depth. Charlie McAvoy, Pavel Zacha, Morgan Geekie, and Matt Grzelcyk have been out.
We still feel pleased about our goaltending. Our defensive structure had an unexpectedly slow couple of games, but we got back on track and tightened it up. It was challenging this weekend with three solid Metro opponents, but we won defensively.
We're in the top 10 in predicted power play and 5-on-5 rates offensively. Maybe a bit below in finish, so we hope that gets back online and healthy. Again, goaltenders and Joe (Sacco) and the group deserve credit for strong penalty killing. We expect to remain competitive, therefore we must stay healthy, go forward, and improve.
Our new bodies will be managed by young males. James van Riemsdyk, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Geekie built our hockey team. Coach Montgomery and his staff haven't overspent. First captain Brad (Marchand) learnt from greats but wants to lead his own way. Both David and Charlie are important."
The Bruins' strong start is promising, but Sweeney's work is far from done. Despite the Bruins' lack of draft selections, he must improve the team before the March NHL trade deadline.
Trades in recent years have left the B's without a pick until the 2024 fourth round. They have no 2025 second- or fourth-round picks. It may be harder to get into the trade market for elite players than in the past, but Sweeney's strengths lie in transactions, something he excels at
Sweeney knows that while his squad is playing well, the regular season is long and the task is far from done. "We're not comfortable, you’re never comfortable in this business," said Sweeney. "We're proud of the group's progress, but we must keep going.