Boston goalie Linus Ullmark, shown during a game earlier this season in Philadelphia, came up big for the Bruins during wins at Edmonton and Calgary late last week. Associated Press/Matt Slocum

The Boston Bruins are coming off their best trip of the season, and their success couldn’t come at a better time.

The Patriots were on a bye week, still savoring their wind-blown charge to the top of the AFC in Buffalo. The Celtics were limping home after losing four of five games on their own trip. And the Red Sox? They’re locked out, along with the rest of Major League Baseball.

Hockey, we turn our tired eyes to you. And the boys in black and gold delivered, taking five of six possible points in their first trip to Western Canada since before the coronavirus pandemic.

The back-to-back wins over Edmonton and Calgary, two teams putting together strong seasons, gave the Bruins four important points as they try to solidify their spot in the playoff race. Thanks to the trip they began the week holding onto the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, in a melee with four other teams within five points of the Bruins.

More importantly, it gave them some confidence heading into another busy week. In Saturday night’s 4-2 win over Calgary, the Bruins scored all of their goals in five-on-five situations, their best full-strength effort this month.

Secondary scoring has been Boston’s biggest concern this season, and the search for offense beyond the top line continues. Taylor Hall and Charlie Coyle have combined for just one goal in the last eight games, meaning the team’s second line is producing next to nothing. We can sit here and lament the offseason loss of David Krejci, the center who was expected to unlock the potential of Hall’s potent shot, but Krejci – currently one of the top scorers in the top league of his native Czech Republic – isn’t skating through that Zamboni entrance anytime soon.


Life goes on, and the Bruins are still trying to figure out how to assemble a productive second line without him.

This weekend, that scoring void was filled from the blue line. Defenseman Matt Grzelcyk scored his first goal of the season in Edmonton, a game-winning blast that came after the Oilers had scored two goals to tie the game and steal momentum. In Calgary, two of the four Bruins goals came from defensemen.

Boston’s defensemen need to get more involved offensively, especially with the lack of scoring from the second and third lines. In Canada, they did exactly that.

They also need to tighten things up in the defensive zone. The Oilers and Flames combined for 85 shots on net in the two games, a recipe that would usually lead to disaster. Instead, Linus Ullmark stepped up and made his best showings in black-and-gold, backstopping his team to wins in both games.

With former UMaine Black Bear Jeremy Swayman representing the future, and unsigned Tuukka Rask working his way back from offseason hip surgery, there were plenty of people who wondered why General Manger Don Sweeney committed four years and $20 million to the goalie from Buffalo.

Ullmark was worth every penny over the weekend. Maybe he’s getting comfortable with his new team. Maybe it’s the new Boston skyline-themed pads he unveiled on the trip. Whatever the case, Ullmark stood tall when they needed him the most.


The Bruins are still well behind the top three teams in the division, but have played far fewer games than nearly everyone else in the league. They’ll chip away at that deficit with four games in six days beginning Tuesday night at TD Garden. It’s their only home game in a seven-game stretch that sees them back in Canada this weekend, a stretch that includes a Hockey Night in Canada matchup in Montreal.

That will be a prime-time event north of the border, but might get lost in the shuffle back here in New England as the second period should start about the same time the Patriots kick off against the Colts.

That’s OK. The Bruins had center stage this past weekend. And they showed us all they might be ready for the limelight when hockey gets serious after the holidays.

Tom Caron is a studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on NESN. His column runs on Tuesdays in the Portland Press Herald.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.