By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_
Since Taylor Hall joined the Bruins, their top two lines have never looked better. Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak have been doing what they do best, and the new second line of Hall, David Krejci, and Craig Smith has been excellent. But despite that top-six clicking, their bottom-six group has been wildly inconsistent. Coach Bruce Cassidy has been mixing and matching that group all season without finding much success.
How Will the Bottom-six Shake Out?
Nick Ritchie remains a solid net-front presence, but his play has fallen off since his hot start. Charlie Coyle has simply been off this entire year. In an 82 game season, he’d be on pace for nine goals and 18 assists, good for 27 points. That is not what you want from a guy that’s getting paid north of $5 million. Jake Debrusk hasn’t shown the same drive or intensity he had in his rookie and sophomore seasons. The usually reliable duo of Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner has been subpar all season. This needs to change. The 2nd line woes seem to be over finally, but this bottom-six group needs to be firing on all cylinders if the Bruins want a shot at the Stanley Cup.
Can They Get Healthy
Health is an issue for every team in the league, and the Bruins are no different. After a slew of injuries midway through the season, the Bs are pretty close to full health. As of now, they are missing Brandon Carlo, Ondrej Kase, and John Moore. If all goes well, we should see Carlo in one of the next few games. With the depth on defense, John Moore won’t be too missed, but the wild card here is Ondrej Kase. The Czech man has been out since the 2nd game of the season, but he’s taking a big step as he has begun to skate with teammates. His timetable is still anyone’s guess, but if Kase can find his way into the lineup, it would be a massive boost to the Bruins’ struggling 3rd line.
Debrusk – Coyle – Kase
Ritchie – Kuraly – Lazar
That bottom-six would be an excellent complement to the top two lines, I hope we get to see it.
Can They Get to the Playoffs?
I’ll be brief because it’s unlikely, but we have seen the Bruins collapse before. The Bruins have eight games remaining and 62 points. The Islanders have seven games remaining and 63 points. The team chasing both are the Rangers, who have six games remaining with 58 points. The most important aspect of the Ranger’s chase is their two games against both the Bruins and the Islanders. If the Bs can take at least two points out of those two games, you’d have to like their chances. Hockey is still a dangerous game.
Who Will the Bruins Face in Round One?
This is obviously dependent on the topic above, but there’s still a lot up for grabs in terms of playoff seeding. The Eastern division is still so close, so the Bruins could play the Capitals, Penguins or Islanders in the first round. Do the Bs match up better against one of the bunch? The Islanders have had Boston’s number this entire season, but without captain Anders Lee and their recent skid, maybe that’s the more opportune team to play.
Perhaps the ideal matchup would be against the Capitals, who (despite recent years) have struggled when they’ve faced the Bruins. Maybe it was just Holtby all along. The Bs have also played the Penguins well this year, but playing against Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in a seven-game series is never an easy task. At the end of the day, I’m not sure it really matters who the Bruins play. All three are excellent teams with depth throughout their lineups; I just hope the Bs can get there.