Washington, DC & Beijing, China – The depth of the Bruins’ prospect pool was on full display Tuesday night and Wednesday morning as the Boston Bruins’ preseason split-squad games continued.
Tuesday night, Providence-bound Dan Vladar stood tall in the nation’s capital, turning away 31 of 33 total shots on goal. Despite not being in the rink physically, it was clear—even through a TV screen— that Vladar was positionally sound and controlled rebounds extremely well. In Providence, it will be tough to call who will get the starts most nights, with Vladar and current Providence netminder Zane McIntyre contending for the starting title.
Despite spotting the Capitals’ eight power-play chances, the Washington squad only converted on one of them. To their credit, Bruins functioned as a cohesive penalty-kill unit, with active sticks which clogged passing lanes. At even strength, Washington—comprised of several NHL regulars—wasn’t much better, as the Capitals only scored on a Riley Barber tip-in which would have been stopped had Vladar not been screened by teammate Emil Johansson.
The Bruins potted five goals, scoring early and often. Former Wisconsin Badger Cam Hughes opened the contest with a clean redirect past NHL goaltender Braden Holtby. While the Capitals tied it up within a few minutes, the Bruins had the last laugh in the first period. After serving two minutes of penalty time, speedy Czech Jakub Lauko took a Hail Mary high-lobbed pass from Providence Bruin tough guy Anton Blidh. Lauko reigned in the pass, and snapped the puck through the wickets of Holtby with one of the purest snap-shots I’ve ever seen.
After an objectively bad first preseason game, and what looked to be a rough start to this game, Zach Senyshyn turned heads with an offensive explosion. Senyshyn scored twice off the rush, once in a heads-up play off his own rebound and then in a gritty crash-the-net play. In the Bruins press release, Senyshyn said:
“It felt great…Definitely been gripping the stick a little tight. I wanted to help out the team, but it was my turn tonight I guess to help out, so I was really happy to be able to do that.”
Washington had come within striking distance of the Boston lead off with a goal coming off the stick of Matt Niskanen in the third period to bring the Capitals within two goals. However, former P-Bruin and current Boston fourth-line center Sean Kuraly added the empty-netter with a minute left in the game. Facing off against high-end talent such as TJ Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, and Holtby, the Bruins team comprised of mostly AHLers and PTO skaters achieved a memorable win in DC.
Less than twelve hours later, the second Bruins squad dropped the puck in Beijing, China. In the second half of the ORG Packaging China Games, the Bruins kept their preseason success going. Former Providence Bruin and 2015 first round draft pick Jake DeBrusk scored the first and second Bruin goals, including the eventual game winner. Late in the game, Kevan Miller iced the win with a long-range empty netter. Opposing the Bruins, the Calgary Flames only managed to sneak one past Tuukka Rask as Sean Monahan caught a stretch pass exiting the penalty box.
Czech in, Czech out: Lauko has been playing at a goal-per-game pace in preseason. While his speed was always highly touted, we’re beginning to see his amazing release and goal-scorer’s finish. He is making good on his desire to stay in North America. Meanwhile, Jakub Zboril was boarded by the Calgary Flames’ Garnett Hathaway late in the third period. In addition to a possible broken nose, Zboril was taken in for concussion protocol.
Senyshyn, Redefined: After a sloppy game Sunday against the Capitals, Zach Senyshyn shed his unsuccessful “grinder” playing style in favor of one better suiting his skill set Tuesday night. Using his speed and heads-up play, Senyshyn beat defenders up ice to score one of two goals. His second came off a crashing-the-net rush, making full use of the ex-Soo Greyhound’s 6’3″ frame and natural tenacity. In a poll I ran after the game, 62% of 47 respondents said they viewed Senyshyn more favorably after his two-goal performance, while 36% answered “no change”. The remaining 2% reacted unfavorably to Senyshyn’s offensive explosion.
PTO Party: Preseason PTO invites Daniel Winnik and Austin Fyten, and FA signings Mark McNeill and Cody Goloubef all contributed to the scoring effort Tuesday night. All recorded at least one assist while Fyten snagged himself a pair.
Powerless-Play Redux: While only drawing two power-play chances, the domestic Bruins squad came up empty again for the second game in a row.
Unbroken: The Bruins are now 4-0-0 in preseason action, undefeated both at home and on the road. Even facing objectively more skilled teams, the Bruins have found ways to win. This suggests their prospect pool is far deeper than meets the eye, and is a testament to management’s drafting and scouting over the past few drafts.