Bear Trap? The Bruins’ Schedule This Week Will Test Them In a Few Ways

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( Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus/ Getty Images )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

Up and Away

With the Bruins embarking on a four-game road trip on which they play four games in seven days between Tuesday and Saturday, they will be tested in more ways than one. While certainly, their playoff status is all but a foregone conclusion, the Bruins remaining ten games of the season will have an effect on whether or not they finish above Toronto and have home-ice for the first round of the postseason. As things stand, it is their advantage to lose.

Hurts so Good

In addition to the on-ice contests that see them face-off against the Islanders, Devils, Panthers, and Lightning, the Bruins will be tasked with playing consecutive road games with a lineup that is in flux. Bruins continue to come back from injury, which despite being a primarily positive thing, it does take away a level of consistency from the lineup.

 

Ambien Teams

To add another level of difficulty to the Bruins’ forthcoming stretch of hockey, their first and fourth games of the trip serve as the fancy playoff bread in a spam sandwich that features New Jersey and Florida as the middle (in that they are a substitute for playoff teams). That was not a good metaphor. But I have a tendency to write around lunchtime, my stomach is doing most of the talking here. The point is that the Bruins begin and end their stretch with games against strong, playoff-caliber teams, and in between these contests are slated to face off against two clubs whose playoff chances are six feet under.

While their game against the Islanders shouldn’t prove to be difficult to get excited for, their games against NJ and FLA are a bit more concerning. The Bruins have at times this season showed an inability to bring their best effort against lesser teams. Both New Jersey and Florida fall into this category that I’ll refer to as “Ambien Teams,” because they seem to have the effect of lulling the Bruins to sleep, and bringing them down to their level of play and intensity.

Rude Awakening

Should the Bruins play down to the level of the Devils and Panthers, then they will be passing up crucial opportunities to gain points and maintain their status as the two-seed in the Atlantic.

However, in the hopefully likely event that they do end up winning these two games, and even if they play well in those games, the Bruins are then thrust right back into a showdown with the President’s Trophy frontrunners in Tampa Bay.

While the Bruins are, in my opinion, the best matchup for Tampa in terms of skill (when healthy) and depth (when healthy), it is a daunting task to bring playoff-level intensity after playing in New Jersey and Florida. While the Black and Gold will have a day or two in Florida to relax and prepare for their contest against the Bolts, that does not negate the difficulty of playing on the road against the current Stanley Cup favorite.

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Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/ Getty Images

Perfect Storm

This road trip could be a huge positive to begin the last three weeks of the season for the Bruins, or it could turn out to be a setback and a reality check for an ailing squad. It’s my hope and my expectation that the B’s will play a strong style of hockey throughout the road trip, and that they will only improve as more of their injured compatriots return to the lineup.

But the combination of road games, lineup inconsistency, trap games, and stiff competition make this road trip one that will likely show what the Bruins are made of.

Let’s all make sure to overreact to every occurrence in the meantime.

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