(Photo Credit: Associated Press)
By Mike Cratty Twitter: @Mike_Cratty
As the 2017-2018 Boston Bruins continue to get healthy, they are showing us what they can do with an optimal lineup. The Bruins have won six of their last seven games, dating back to November 16 against the Los Angeles Kings. Their last loss came on November 26 against the Edmonton Oilers.
Adam McQuaid and Peter Cehlarik are still recovering from leg injuries, and Jake DeBrusk is dealing with an upper-body injury. The team is almost there after a crazy string of injuries, with some players missing multiple stretches of time.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid continuing to skate prior to #NHLBruins practice; has been 6 weeks since surgery, was expected to be out 8
— Matt Kalman (@MattKalman) December 1, 2017
The team isn’t blowing teams away on the score sheet, but rather they are finding different ways to win, night in and night out. That is their identity in my mind – a team that won’t always blow teams away on the score sheet but has a solid mix of different playing styles, can wear teams down, and find different ways to win. Whether Anton Khudobin or Tuukka Rask step up, or David Pastrnak buries a sweet goal on a breakaway, their newfound health and energy have been huge in allowing them to climb the Atlantic Division standings and make up ground. For a little while, it seemed like the misfortune didn’t have any plans of stopping and the Bruins would be near basement territory in the Atlantic Division. That hasn’t been the case as of late, as they sit in fourth place in the Atlantic with a 12-8-4 record and 28 points, three points ahead of the Detroit Red Wings and one point behind the Montreal Canadiens.
The misfortune that was dumped on the Bruins in the injury department prevented hockey fans from getting a glimpse at the identity a team with the potential to return to the playoffs. The season opener, a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators at home, gave us a quick, short-lived look. With guys like Brad Marchand and Anders Bjork recently returning, as well as David Backes incredibly returning ahead of schedule, this Bruins team is showing fans what many expected. A team with some new faces, some young, some old, and some legitimate Calder trophy candidates. That bunch is starting to meet expectations and wear teams down.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 3, 2017
Part of their resurgence has come from the goaltending. When you’re a team that doesn’t score a whole lot, it’s nice to be able to rely on your goalies, and the Bruins sure have as of late. Tuukka Rask has regained some composure in the crease in three straight starts dating back to the loss last Sunday against Edmonton. In those three starts, Rask is 2-1-0 with a 1.67 GAA, .940 save percentage. The Bruins just have two thriving goalies at the moment, which is nice to see because they simply didn’t have that luxury last season. There is no controversy, Tuukka Rask is the number one goalie, but in this case, both goalies are playing very well. That doesn’t change Tuukka’s status as the number one, and he seems to be ok with split time with his buddy Dobby. Anton Khudobin will slot back in tomorrow night against Nashville.
David Backes had part of his intestines surgically removed 27 DAYS AGO and he’s playing hockey tonight. I don’t care who you are, you’re not as tough as him.
— Ryan Johnston (@Johnston985) November 29, 2017
The returns of numerous players have just helped this team gain consistent stability and begin to establish a reputation and an identity. The lack of stability is a huge part of what led to the team’s slow start. One shining example is the fact that they held off the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2, arguably the best team in the NHL and definitely the best team in the East.
Whether the Bruins maintain consistency moving forward is going to be one of the main storylines.
With the lineup nearing full health (fingers crossed), here are my optimal lines for the Bruins when they regain full health (not including trades that could be made):
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Anders Bjork
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen – Ryan Spooner – David Backes
Tim Schaller – Riley Nash – Noel Acciari
Matt Beleskey/Frank Vatrano
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Kevan Miller – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
All I want for Christmas is a fully healthy Bruins lineup, and you should too. This team is showing fans what they are capable of. If this positive trend can continue consistently enough, we may not be looking at a first-round playoff exit like last season.