By: Nick Gendreau | Follow me on Twitter @NGendreau1993
It’s that time of year! The official (yet unofficial) is your team a playoff team deadline. So, where do the Bruins stand in this whole debate? Well, it doesn’t look all that good; the only good thing is how many games they have in hand on teams. Toronto, Washington, Detroit, Florida, and the New York Rangers all are ahead of the Bruins in the standings but also have played at least three more games than Boston.
Sitting in the ten spot heading into Tuesday night, the Bruins hold a 9-6-0 record good for 18 points which is just one point shy of a playoff spot, but to me, this team hasn’t lived up to its deep playoff run potential as it should. Given the moves General Manager Don Sweeney made over the off-season, it is fair to think that at least on paper, this team would be a much better group than where they are currently constituted.
Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek were all brought in to bolster the third and fourth line; right now, the three players have 8 points combined (3+5=8) and a -6 plus/minus. I am for sure not blaming these three for the Bruins early-season struggles, but they haven’t really been a bright spot either. Foligno, as much as a glue guy he may be, has only produced one assist in his first seven games in a spoked-B uniform; while Haula and Nosek have started to get it together a little bit recently, there needs to be more from them all.
It’s not just those three guys though obviously, the goaltending has been very hot and cold. When one has a good game, it seems like the other has had a tough outing the following game; case in point this weekend with Linus Ullmark earning a 5-2 victory Saturday night in Philly, then Jeremy Swayman losing in an ugly 4-0 effort on Sunday.
Sunday night’s game really made me wonder why Sweeney traded Dan Vladar to Calgary for a third-round pick when he looked much better last year for the Bruins and has a 4-0-0 record with a 1.57 GAA and a .946 save percentage coupled with two shutouts to start this year. Meanwhile, Swayman (who overall I think has earned the number one role) is 5-3 while Ullmark is 4-3 and makes $5 million a year. It really makes you wonder, with Tuukka Rask back on the practice ice rocking Bruins gear, that he will be the midseason acquisition that the Don Sweeney and company make.
So moving along from the goalies, what else does this team need? Secondary scoring has been a long-standing issue for a couple of years now, and with Charlie Coyle centering the second line alongside Taylor Hall and Craig Smith, that particular line hasn’t produced a whole lot for thus far. I would like to think that Smith’s injury has something to do with his lack of production, while in Hall’s case, maybe it is just the fact that he is still adjusting to the play of Coyle.
Last year the chemistry between Hall and David Krejci was off the charts, and now Krejci is off to a sizzling start in the Czech Republic with Olomouc HC with 23 points (12 being goals) in 22 games. Do you miss David Krejci yet? I do. The top line, as expected, has been the most productive, with Brad Marchand leading the team with 20 points, but overall, David Pastrnak hasn’t looked exactly like the sniper we all know him to be with only five goals thus far.
Meanwhile, on the back end, Derek Forbort leads all defensemen with four goals. Yes, you read that correctly. While Charlie McAvoy has lived up to his hype in both points (12) and his physical game (35 hits), his (sometimes) d-partner Matt Grzelcyk hasn’t lived up to par with his two assists and -5 +/- in all 15 games. What can the blue line do the bring a little more spark?
Shoot for one, especially for McAvoy; his two goals last Sunday was a real eye-opener for many that have seen the potential this kid possesses. Brandon Carlo needs to have better puck management; his horrendous turnover against the Edmonton Oilers was an eye-roller, to say the least, and made me wonder how much value does he have at the trade deadline despite his new contract and new letter on the front of his sweater.
Mike Reilly has been somewhat disappointing and was healthy scratched by Bruce Cassidy last weekend, a clear message that he needs to elevate his game to where it was when he was traded here last season. For the final defenseman on this roster, I don’t think Connor Clifton is the answer. Clifton has had some really ugly turnovers himself while posting only one assist in 11 games. Jakub Zboril has gotten the nod from Cassidy the last few games and seems to be playing with a bit more confidence and has produced two assists in five games; this is an arrow pointing upwards for the former first-round pick.
As I wrap up the state of address of this team with Turkey Day right around the corner, I am somewhat disappointed with the team’s overall performance. I acknowledge the schedule hasn’t been in their favor; getting a whole week off in the middle of November blows my mind and makes no sense, but as Carlo said to the press this past weekend, “We can’t control the schedule.”
For me, it’s time to dig deep and get ready to play some of the best hockey of the season because before we know it, March is going to be here, along with a brutal 30 games in 61 days as April wraps up. The time is now to generate points and take advantage of these games in hand because otherwise, this team has a first-round exit lined up come playoff time.