Boston Bruins: Contenders or Pretenders?
After the new year struck, so did the Boston Bruins. Since resuming play the Bruins chaulked up two much needed wins in their matchups against the Buffalo Sabres (4-3 OT) and Detroit Red Wings (5-1), boosting their record to 16-10-2. Is this the spark that the Bruins need to ignight a push for playoffs? Perhaps...
Prior to the start of the 2021-2022 season, there were very high hopes for this organization. The perfection line remained healthy and in tact with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastranak. Backup goaltender Jeremy Swayman had been developed into a starting caliber goalie in lew of the injured now free agent netminder Tuuka Rask. Linus Ullmark was inked to a five year deal to add depth to the goaltender position. Taylor Hall had signed longterm. And the Bruins managed to add depth to the back six and defensive pairings with signings such as Derek Forbort, Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek. All seemed to shine light on a lineup poised to make another push for the Stanley cup, but then the Bruins began their sluggish start to the new season. However, as we all know success isn't based upon how you start, but rather how you finish. As the Bruins appear to be trending upwards, do they have what it takes to bring the cup back to Boston?
The answer lies in the hands of head coach Bruce Cassidy. This team has the potential, but a lack of consistency has appeared to be the number one issue throughout the duration of this season. With spotty performances in net by both Swayman and Ullmark, key players such as Pastranak and Hall struggling to find the back of the net regularly, and a lack of shape in line pairings stemming from Cassidy the Bruins appeared to have been lost. Now stringing back to back wins to start the new year, Bruins fans certainly have some hope to cling onto as the B's still remain in the mix for playoffs.
Now if the Bruins want to guarantee this, what will they have to do? First things first, get scoring production from all four lines. The Bruins currently rank 27th in goals scored (less games played being a contributing factor) largely due to the fact that key players haven't been producing and the revamped back six on the third and fourth lines have not performed up to par. With that being said, Cassidy has switched around line pairings, swapping Craig Smith and David Pastranak, as well as Haula and Coyle. Since the swap, the Bruins have had each of their four lines produce at least one goal over the course of their past two games; something we hope to see a lot more of down the road. In terms of netminders, Swayman and Ullmark have been finding a rythem gaining a huge confidence boost at a much needed time.
In addition to this, rumors have linked last season's starting goalie, Tuuka Rask, as a potential candidate to return to the time after he makes a full recovery from his hip surgury. Whoever takes control of the reigns down the stretch must play well game in and game out to ensure the Bruins can cling on to that final playoff spot, or even better move up in the rankings. Lastly, after a constant mix and match of defensive pairings it appears that the current lineup with McAvoy/Grezelcyk, Reilly/Carlo, and Clifton/Forbort has given this unit reliability in these past few matchups. However, the Bruins could most certainly benefit from adding some much needed depth to that unit prior to the March 21st trade deadline.
At this current point in time the Bruins are not yet contenders. Despite that, there is still plenty of time to fix that. A lot needs to go right for this Bruins team to be able to hoist the cup this season, but the pieces of the puzzle are all there. Now it is just a matter of if they fall into place.