By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty
The Bruins currently sit just two points ahead of the fifth-place Philadelphia Flyers in the East Division. Part of that has to do with the recent COVID-19 pause for the Bruins, as they have three games in hand on the Flyers. Games in hand, at this point in time, is one of the biggest points of leverage for the Bruins. It ties into the main theme for the team for the rest of the season, which is opportunity.
While this team is unfortunately in limbo to an extent due to players like Jake DeBrusk, Sean Kuraly, Brandon Carlo, and Ondrej Kase out of the lineup, they have some leverage in their division. Unfortunately for them, they have to deal with the stingy New York Islanders right out of the COVID-19 pause. Having Tuukka Rask back for the first time since March 7th against the New Jersey Devils doesn’t hurt, though.
Not only do they have games in hand, they have seven games against the Buffalo Sabres ahead of them. The Sabres are in an incredibly rough stretch of their season, losing their last 15 games.
Additionally, they have been without Jack Eichel since March 7th against the Islanders and he will not be returning to the ice any time soon. Taking advantage of a massive opportunity for the Bruins to get some crucial points against the Sabres in the standings. With teams only playing teams in their division this regular season, a unique type of fluctuation in the standings takes place.
Not too long ago in late February, when the Bruins dropped two back-to-back games in ugly fashion to the Islanders and Rangers respectively, we saw the Bruins tied at the top of the division with the Washington Capitals.
Now they are in fourth place, teetering around in the lower portion of the playoff picture of the division. That just goes to show how things can change rapidly, as well as why the importance of points in the standings is magnified this season.
Opportunity is not only a big theme on the ice, but off of it for the Bruins as well. This ties into the degree of aggressiveness that Don Sweeney approaches the April 12th trade deadline with.
The team has been linked to Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm. But, it’s no secret that they could seriously use a substantial upgrade in the forward group to boost secondary scoring and bulk the team up for a potentially long playoff run. I wrote about Ekholm and the Bruins a little while back, if you want to check that out.
There’s too much riding on a big year for the veteran core of the team, on top of just wanting to be a formidable contender for the Stanley Cup to not be aggressive at the deadline if impactful moves are able to be made. This stretch of the season leading up to the trade deadline is massive for Don Sweeney.
Viktor Arvidsson’s name has been out there in trade rumblings. It can’t hurt to try to bring not just one, but two of Craig Smith’s Nashville buddies in for a playoff run. While he only has four goals and ten assists in 33 games this season, his track record features 30-goal season upside. This includes 34 goals in 58 games during the 2018-2019 season, by the way.
That should be enough at the very least for Sweeney to make a push for Arvidsson if he is available, and I hope he does. Acquiring Ekholm and Arvidsson in the same deal would be a pretty epic way for Sweeney to go all in.
As previously mentioned, a tough task lies ahead in another battle with the Islanders right out of the COVID-19 pause. But, a rough start to the season series with a team as good as the Islanders are is just more reason for the Bruins to be motivated to beat them.
An opportunity to send a message to the limited amount of their home fans for the first time this season, as well as the hockey world. One more thing, I wanted to wish the Boston Pride the best of luck as they begin their quest for their second Isobel Cup in franchise history this weekend. Go Pride!