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Bruins' Special Season Gets Another Highlight with Gutty Winter Classic Win at Fenway

Sara CivianJanuary 3, 2023

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 02: Linus Ullmark #35 and Jake DeBrusk #74 of the Boston Bruins celebrate after the 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park on January 02, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeated the Penguins 2-1. (Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)
Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

BOSTON -- The 2023 Winter Classic at Fenway Park started out about as choppy as you'd expect from a hockey game at a baseball stadium on a warm day in January, but that's part of the novelty of the thing.

We're learning a lot about these Bruins through their historic start to the season. If their third-period stats, 29-4-4 record, and near-perfect home start are any indication, we already knew they could handle a little choppiness.

As they arrived at the ballpark in vintage Red Sox uniforms Monday, we also learned they're suckers for some novelty.

B/R Open Ice @BR_OpenIce

The Bruins paid homage to the Red Sox with their <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WinterClassic?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WinterClassic</a> arrival fits ⚾️❄️<br><br>(🎥 <a href="https://twitter.com/NHLBruins?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NHLBruins</a>) <a href="https://t.co/4fWNmpIVxa">pic.twitter.com/4fWNmpIVxa</a>

"I joked that those were the jerseys they wore when [David] Krejci and [Patrice Bergeron] Bergy started playing," Nick Foligno said. "Listen, this is a storied building, and we wanted to make sure that as much fun as we were having, we also paid respect to the guys that have come before us in this place and made it what it is.

"It was really cool to put that on and experience what those guys went through walking through those halls. It was really fun, and to dress up like that made it even more enjoyable."

"It's just pure joy and happiness, I've dreamed about this for 14 years," added Linus Ullmark, who made 26 saves and ended with a .963 save percentage. "Since I saw the first [Winter Classic] at home in Sweden, I was always jealous of the people who played before me…I like to dress up for these special occasions as well, and I thought it was a cool idea."

The comeback 2-1 win over the Penguins didn't hurt, either.

After a lackluster start full of Grade D shots and missed nets, the Bruins did what they somehow keep doing: taking one good bounce and turning it into a complete win. It's like they've mastered the vague art of in-game switch flipping, so it's no surprise the best team in the league also boasts the best third-period stats.

That's not necessarily a good thing, of course, and you wonder when that calm, first-period dominance the Bruins had in their first 15 games will come back. But there's something special about watching this team dig itself out of various dilemmas lately, and you gotta admit a comeback won late in the third turned this into a Winter Classic to remember.

"In the third period, this team finds ways to raise their level and take over a game," head coach Jim Montgomery said. "The resilient attitude, the never-say-die ability of this team to ratchet it up. At the end of the second ... we weren't getting pucks out, and I was getting a little negative. Bergy goes, 'We'll be all right.' It was another way for us to communicate. These guys have got it. I can just shut up behind the bench."

Montgomery isn't the most talkative coach in the league to begin with; he doesn't have to be. In staying true to himself and giving his players some room to breathe, he's unlocked a mutual trust with the team that at least helps explain the magic.

He even let Foligno take over the locker-room speech headed into the third, and to me, the fact that Foligno even felt like he could ask said a lot about mutual respect.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 02: Nick Foligno #17 of the Boston Bruins throws a baseball on the field prior to the 2023 Discover NHL Winter Classic game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Boston Bruins at Fenway Park on January 02, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

Montgomery was rewarded with the Bruins' 29th win of the season, both goals courtesy of sparkplug Jake DeBrusk, a player who rescinded a trade request around the same time a fresh face was going to take over as Boston's head coach.

DeBrusk has played with equal parts heart and forecheck since his NHL debut, which was on display during his first goal—a second-effort opportunity after friendly fire took him down in front of the net.

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DeBrusk with the stuff-in for a tie game! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WinterClassic?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WinterClassic</a> <a href="https://t.co/OjFv5u0579">pic.twitter.com/OjFv5u0579</a>

This lovable combination of effort and skill has put him in several iconic game-winning situations for a reason.

Tonight was his favorite.

"This is a dream come true, and you don't want to waste it," he said. "You don't want to come out after a game like tonight and think, 'I could have done more, I wish I would've done something else.' It's very rare you get another chance to do it."

Perhaps it means so much to him because it's part of something bigger. Call it a fresh start, call it a comeback season, call it whatever you want. It's clear a weight has been lifted off DeBrusk.

B/R Open Ice @BR_OpenIce

Debrusk's game winner from ice level 🔥🔥 <a href="https://t.co/LhoC5st9ds">pic.twitter.com/LhoC5st9ds</a>

"He's a lot tougher than people think," Montgomery said. "And he's more committed than people are aware of."

And now that he's free to be himself, he's on pace for a career season with 16 goals and 30 points in 36 games.

Meanwhile, his resilient Bruins are on pace for regular-season success we haven't seen in the modern NHL era. We are free to doubt them, but I doubt they'd care.