BOSTON -- Five items of note from the Bruins' 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals in Wednesday night's final game of the preseason, as we now await the start of the 2021-22 campaign a week from Saturday against the Dallas Stars back at TD Garden:
1. Coyle was clicking in first game back: Having missed the entire preseason while working his way back from left knee surgery in the offseason, appeared very comfortable centering Boston's second line between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith. In just under 17 minutes of ice time he scored a goal, assisted on another and won 9 of his 11 faceoffs while also seeing time on the penalty kill. He and Smith both finished at plus-2.
Having started camp in a red non-contact sweater before advancing to full contact drills on Sept. 27, Coyle's goal was the kind both the Bruins' coaching staff and fan base love to see out of the local product. Crashing the net, he followed up a Brad Marchand wrister from the high slot, got position in the goal mouth and shoved a second-chance rebound past Caps goaltender Vitek Vanecek for a 1-0 lead seven-and-a-half minutes in.
2. What you see is what you'll (probably) get: The lineup that the Bruins iced Wednesday night is almost certainly what we'll see when they open against Dallas in a little over a week. That means Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak on the top unit, followed by Hall-Coyle-Smith behind them.
The third line should feature Jake DeBrusk at left wing with newcomers Erik Haula (formerly of the Predators) at center and veteran Nick Foligno (last of the Maple Leafs) on his right. The fourth line is shaping up to be Trent Frederic and Curtis Lazar as the wings for another new centerman, ex-Vegas Gold Knight Tomas Nosek.
It's likely the organization wants Jack Studnicka playing more minutes (and more meaningful ones at that), so he's likely to start the season in AHL Providence. Guys like Chris Wagner and Karson Kuhlman appear to be the extra forwards that Boston will carry.
As expected, Derek Forbort should skate on the left side top defensive pairing alongside Charlie McAvoy. That means Mike Reilly and Brandon Carlo will round out the top four, with Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton as the third pairing. Grzelcyk's minutes will tick up on the second power play unit, too.
The only change from Wednesday's exhibition finale that we should see on Opening Night is in goal, where rookie Jeremy Swayman has certainly won the No. 1 job with a strong postseason. Linus Ullmark, who started against Washington, hasn't done enough to earn the starter's designation.
3. Speaking of Ullmark ... : Acquired from the Sabres in the offseason, Ullmark is still trying to get comfortable between the pipes wearing Black-and-Gold. It was another iffy performance against the Capitals Wednesday, as he gave up a bad rebound that resulted in Evgeny Kuznetsov's tying goal in the second period, then was cleanly beat by Tom Wilson through his 5-hole less than a minute later, giving the visitors their first lead.
The overtime goal he surrendered was just plain bad; Anthony Mantha broke into the offensive zone 2-on-1 down the right wing and looked to dish it off before flinging a shot towards Ullmark. It looked innocuous enough ... until it beat the goalie easily. Ugh.
With four days between the Bruins' opener and their first road game in Philadelphia Oct. 20, the bet here is that Swayman earns the first two starts before we see Ullmark for the first time against his old teammates in Buffalo on Friday, Oct. 22.
4. Artistry from McAvoy. Perhaps the prettiest play of the evening came on the lead-up to Coyle's goal, when McAvoy received the puck in the high slot. Twisting his body as he controlled the puck, he split two Capitals defenders and took it towards the net, worked the disc around another Washington player before feeding Smith on the doorstep for a shot at the far post.
It was just a glimpse of what the mercurial McAvoy brings to the ice each night, and what he's capable of doing every time he hops over the boards.
5. Ready from the draw: The Bruins appear ready for the regular season to begin as far as taking faceoffs. The Bruins captured 61 percent (36-of-59) draws on the night, with Bergeron (16-of-21) his usual dominant self on the dot, as well as Nosek (8-of-10) and the aforementioned Coyle. On Haula (3-of-12) struggled, getting beaten cleanly on several occasions.