By: Carter Hochman | Follow me on Twitter @Carterr33
Man, oh man, what a difference a sixteen-day break can do for a team, am I right? I’ll be honest, once the Sabres scored first on Saturday, my first thought was, “oh boy, here we go,” and it wasn’t until I (admittedly) turned off my tv that my phone started buzzing, letting me know that the Bruins had equalized in the third period. I can’t fully express how much of a relief it was to come out on top over the still-struggling Sabres in OT. But then again, it’s the Sabres, and it’s a must-win.
Then came the Red Wings. Similar story, Detroit score first, my head falls into my hands, and I’m reminded that we only beat Buffalo because it’s Buffalo. Uh, needless to say, I was incorrect. Just how wrong was I, you may ask? A 5-1 win would be the response to that question. Let’s break it all down.
Now, when the postponements hit and the Bruins started racking up the players on the Covid list, I genuinely didn’t know how long the league-wide delay would last. The IIHF World Juniors had been canceled, and the league went back on its agreement, so NHLers were no longer going to the Olympics… it wasn’t looking good. Would it be another bubble season? Are we still headed towards a bubble postseason? The last question remains unanswered. But what the NHL did that was good was bring back the taxi squads, which seemed like a no-brainer.
Days before the Bruins season was set to resume, it was announced that just about everyone was set to come off of the Covid list, and Charlie Coyle was still a maybe. Coyle was later cleared. With a fully healthy squad, fresh legs, and a fresh mindset, Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins were ready to hit the reset button.
That reset button included a few line shifts that raised some eyebrows but have paid off through the last two games: Craig Smith moved up to the first line alongside Bergeron and Marchand, Haula moved up to the second-line center. In contrast, Pasta shifted down to play on the right side, and Coyle moved back down to the third line. Coyle, Foligno, Hall, Smith, McAvoy, Nosek, Frederic, and Haula all scored in those two games. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Bruce Cassidy did a decent job as a head coach right there.
The Bruins have another chance to keep the momentum going in a pivotal and very winnable game vs. New Jersey on Tuesday night, and it’s a very busy January for Boston moving forward. If they can get hot at the right time and cruise through January, the Bruins could very well set themselves up to be comfortably in the postseason without stressing out at the end of the season.
Keep the lines where they are, keep using Swayman and Ullmark on a 50/50 basis (I won’t even comment on Tuukka Rask until he inevitably comes back), stay out of the penalty box, and Boston will be in great shape.