By: Andrew Thompson Twitter: @godwentwhoops
The Boston Bruins are about to play in their 20th game of the season. This wraps up the first quarter of the 2017-18 season for the Black and Gold, and the results certainly could have been better.
The Bruins are currently 8-7-4 at the moment, and they’re near the bottom of the Atlantic. They’re a few points back of a playoff spot. The team is nursing a slew of injuries, and the B’s are doing the best they can with what they have.
Still, it isn’t all bad for the Black and Gold. The Boston Bruins found a way to put together two wins on the road against California teams that should have had their number. The B’s find themselves on the start of their first win streak of the season, and it took a combined effort of a lot of younger players to make this happen.
There are a few major takeaways from the start of this season, and the Bruins will have to continue to cultivate the positive aspects if they want to find themselves back in the playoff hunt by Christmas.
The Bruins youth movement is on the right track. The Bruins are about to play their 20th game of the season. Of those 20 games, they’ve only had their top-six forwards all together once this season. Coach Bruce Cassidy has had no choice but to go with the ‘next man up’ philosophy. While that has caused the team a lot of growing pains, several of the young players are transitioning well into their NHL careers and are putting up respectable numbers early in this season.
Charlie McAvoy and Danton Heinen are tied for fifth place (10 pts) in scoring. Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork are one point behind them. The younger players are providing the necessary secondary scoring to support the B’s top line. But they’ll need to do a little more. At the moment, the B’s top line (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak) are responsible for 43.1% of all the Bruins goal this season.
The Bruins are playing better when in front of Anton Khudobin. I don’t know if it’s a subconscious thing or not, but the younger Bruins play better defense when they’re in front of the Bruins backup goaltender. The Bruins have left Khudobin out to dry less often than they have Tuukka Rask.
The B’s better play in front of Khudobin has certainly made him look a strong netminder. Khudobin remains undefeated while in regulation play this season. He’s currently 5-0-2 this year, with an outstanding .935 save percentage and a respectable 2.17 goals against average.
Bruce Cassidy is certainly pleased with his performance. He may even keep Khudobin in net when they play Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils. “Clearly [Khudobin] he’s played well. We haven’t made our decision yet,” said Cassidy about the B’s goaltender on Monday. “That tells you we want to make sure we balance it right. Listen, he’s got a hot hand. We’ll look into that a little bit more [on Tuesday].”
While he’s not playing ideal hockey, Tuukka Rask is still Boston’s #1 goalie. There will always be members of the fan base that hate a certain player for whatever reason. There is a certain percentage of B’s fans that aren’t fans of Tuukka Rask, Boston’s current number one netminder. Some don’t like his playing style, some don’t like his hot-and-cold performances, and a few people don’t like him because he isn’t Canadian.
Cassidy has ignored many of the haters and given Rask the lion share of responsibility for defending the crease this year. With so many injuries among the veterans and the defencemen, it has opened Rask up some nights, and that has cost the team crucial points. Even with the problems they’ve been having, Cassidy still believes that Rask is the team’s primary netminder.
“Not to over-evaluate,” mentioned Cassidy on Rask. “His numbers are what they…what we’re missing is we need to make one more big play to score a goal or he needs to make one more big save. It’s not a situation you go, ‘Man, technically he’s off’…it’s just that one more play that we’re getting out of Dobby right now.”
Rask isn’t playing Vezina hockey right now. That’s obvious, but he usually has periods within the season where he isn’t playing his best. Personally, I’m hoping he’s getting it all out of the way now. It will certainly make watching the next 60 games easier.