Boston Bruins

Bruins GM Don Sweeney gives ‘positive' assessment of his team's start

"You’re never comfortable in this business. But we're proud of the group."

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The Boston Bruins could not have asked for a better start to the 2023-24 NHL season.

Despite a busy summer that saw the departures of several important players, including a pair of franchise legends in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, the Bruins entered Monday tied atop the Eastern Conference standings with a 19-5-5 record (43 points).

The Bruins have lost back-to-back games just once all season. They also rank No. 2 in goals against, No. 1 on the penalty kill and No. 1 in save percentage. The Bruins rank 18th in goals scored, but they've gotten positive contributions from most of their roster. Two of the best examples have been Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha, who are both on pace to set career highs in scoring as top-six centers. David Pastrnak is on track to be a Hart Trophy candidate for the second consecutive year. The goaltending has been the league's best through 29 games, with Jeremy Swayman establishing himself as a legit Vezina Trophy candidate.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney met with reporters Monday after announcing that rookie center Matthew Poitras had been assigned to Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden.

He was asked about his team's performance so far.

“I think we're positive about where our club is at," Sweeney said. "We described to them that it’s going to be a work in progress, and there’s going to be some growing pains associated with our hockey club. We're going to challenge the depth of our group, and we have done that. (Charlie McAvoy) has been out, (Pavel Zacha) has been out, (Morgan) Geekie’s been out, (Matt) Grzelcyk has been out. Our goaltending we felt very good about and we continue to feel good about. Defensive structure of our group, went through a little bit of a lull for a couple of games, uncharacteristically, but then got right back, put the screws down a little bit and tightened it up. We went into a real tough environment this past weekend, three really good teams in the Metro, and got the defensive game.

"Offensively, we're tracking OK there, we're in the top 10 of expected rates for both power play and 5-on-5. Probably a notch below from the finish standpoint, so we hope that comes back online and being healthy. Penalty killing remains to be really stout, again, the goaltenders get a lot of credit in that regard and what Joe (Sacco) and the group does there. We’re a competitive group, we expect to be competitive, now we’ve got to stay healthy, keep moving forward, and keep getting better.

"We've introduced some young players, so there's going to be some growing pains with each and every one of them, new bodies. When you think about where (James van Riemsdyk), (Kevin Shattenkirk) and Geekie and what they've come in and provided for our hockey club, leadership and production in different roles. (Head coach Jim Montgomery) and the coaching staff have done a nice job of going through some pockets, not get too high when you’re up there, and then don't get too low when we hit some lows. And Brad (Marchand) for that matter, wearing the captaincy for the first time, can’t go unnoticed in terms of responsibility and leadership that he's going through for the first time, learned from some pretty good guys prior to, but he's his own person and he wants to lead from his own personality. And obviously David (Pastrnak) and Charlie (McAvoy) as being the assistants are a big part of that."

The hot start is an encouraging development for the Bruins, but Sweeney's work is far from over. Now he needs to find ways to upgrade the roster before the NHL trade deadline in March despite the fact that the Bruins are without a full cupboard of draft picks.

The B's, because of different trades in recent years, don't have a pick until the fourth round in 2024. They are also without a second- and fourth-round pick in 2025. Getting into the mix for the top players available on the trade market could prove more challenging than in years past, but it would be foolish to doubt Sweeney's abilities here because trades are probably the area of his job he excels at the most.

Sweeney knows that, while his team looks really good right now, the regular season is long and the job is nowhere near finished.

"We're not comfortable, you’re never comfortable in this business," Sweeney said. "But we're proud of the group and how they've done so far, and we’ve got to continue to move forward.”

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