The Arms Race In The East, And How It Affects The Bruins

( Photo Credit: AP Photo/Michael Dwyer )


By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

 

With just days to go until the Trade Deadline, the dominos have already begun to fall. Teams have been gearing up for the great battle that is the Stanley Cups Playoffs. In the West, we’ve seen a few moves to bolster some already strong roster. The Canucks went out and acquired Tyler Toffoli, the Jets nabbed Dylan Demelo from Ottawa and Vegas added Alec Martinez. But the biggest story as of now has been the massive arms race that’s been shaping up the in the Bruins’ Conference.

On February 5th, the arms race began and has already paid dividends for the teams involved. The Toronto Maple Leafs kicked it all off when they fixed two of their biggest issue, toughness and backup goaltending. They received that aid in the form of Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell from LA. In doing so, they gave up young forward Trevor Moore and a pair of 3rd rounders (one of which has the chance to bump up to a 2nd if conditions are met). The two have fit right in, Jack Campbell is 3-0-1 between the pipes and Clifford has added nice grit in their bottom-six.

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 23: Minnesota Wild left wing Jason Zucker (16) screens Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) on the power play during a game between the Boston Bruins and the Minnesota Wild on November 23, 2019, at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

( Photo Credit: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images )

A few days later, we saw the always active Jim Rutherford and the Pittsburg Penguins find a replacement for the injured Jake Guentzel when they acquired Jason Zucker from the Wild. Minnesota received a nice haul for the forward with a 2020 1st round pick, Calen Addison (a top prospect in Pittsburgh’s system) and the struggling Alex Galchenyuk. Zucker has been awesome since sporting the Penguins’ colors and has three goals and an assist in four games.

After losing Adam Pelech to injury, the New York Islanders shored up their defense and gave veteran Andy Greene a new home, sending a 2nd rounder and Dave Quenneville to the New Jersey Devils. Greene has helped off the bat, contributing an assist in his first game. The hottest team in the league, the Tampa Bay Lightning, made a big splash with the aforementioned Devils when they acquired Blake Coleman for the big package of Nolan Foote and a 1st round pick. And just recently, the Capitals added the physical Brendon Dillon from the Sharks for a 2nd and 3rd rounder.

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-St. Louis Blues at Boston Bruins

( Photo Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports )

So with three of the four top teams in the East (as well as two contenders) all making moves, it’s crucial the Bruins don’t fall behind. The acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson last season proved that when moves are made right, they have huge pay-offs. The Bruins yet again need to make a move to keep up, and that move needs to be for some help upfront.

With Tyler Toffoli recently dealt to the Canucks, that leaves one less option for Boston to add, so what’s left? For guys that can play in the top-six, we have Chris Kreider, Mike Hoffman, and my personal favorite, Kyle Palmieri. As we’ve seen from the trades already made, the prices for impact players are as high as they’ve ever been. You’d have to think that the three listed would go for a 1st rounder, plus a variety of players, prospects, and picks.

If the Bruins choose to balk at those prices, some second-tier options would be the likes of Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Josh Anderson, Ondrej Kase a the duo of Predators in Mikael Granlund and Craig Smith. I’d assume the baseline for these players would be similar to the price the Bruins paid for Marcus Johansson at last year’s deadline, a 2nd rounder plus a sweetener. Some help in the bottom-six (which really shouldn’t be a priority) could have options like Vladislav Namestnikov, Derek Grant, Barclay Goodrow, Wayne Simmonds or maybe even Joe Thornton. Much of the East has already made improvements so Boston, you’re up.

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Boston Bruins: No Easy Path To Playoffs

Brad Marchand

(Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins made a magical playoff push last season, netting them second place in the Eastern Conference. The team finished with a record of 50-19-12 dubbing them one of the best teams in the NHL during the 2017-18 season. This year, Boston’s path to Atlantic Division supremacy will be one of their toughest grinds yet.

Though young Bruins such as Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, and Brandon Carlo will likely see improvement this year, it may not be enough to take down some of their most formidable opponents. These teams also feature rosters stacked with young players looking to make an even bigger impact during the 2018-19 campaign, making their path to the top of the Atlantic Division much more difficult.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning are undoubtedly one of the most feared teams in the Atlantic Division and the NHL as a whole. As a coach, when you see Tampa Bay on the schedule, you circle that date and make sure your starting goaltender is ready to go for that matchup.

The Lightning wrapped up the 2017-18 regular season with a record of 54-23-5 netting them 113 points and Atlantic Division champions. Come playoff time, they skated by the New Jersey Devils and the Bruins with just one loss in each series. They then took the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the Washington Capitals to seven games before trading their hockey bags for golf bags.

Bruins Lightning Handshake

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Nikita Kucherov tallied 100 points last year, followed by Steven Stamkos with 86 points and 21-year-old Brayden Point with 66. In addition to Point, they have a young roster featuring names like Mikhail Sergachev and Andrei Vasilevskiy. In other words, Tampa’s strong showing last year is expected to give way to stronger performances for the foreseeable future.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are another top contender in the Atlantic Division. After adding John Tavares, the team seems poised to improve upon last year’s record of 49-26-7. The Leafs were led by a slew of youngsters last season by the names of  William Nylander (61 points), Mitch Marner (69 points), and Auston Matthews who put up 63 points in just 62 games. The latter two forwards seem excited that their team was able to reel in Tavares this summer:

Toronto was a tough customer in the first round of the playoffs for Boston and is expected to be throughout the 2018-19 campaign. In fact, the Leafs won the regular season series against the Bruins with a record of 3-1. Boston’s road against Toronto is only expected to get tougher, and the Leafs may find themselves ahead of the Bruins in the standings at this season’s end.

Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers nearly squeaked into the playoffs last season but could very well snag more than a wild card spot this year. The Bruins went 1-3 against the Panthers during the 2017-18 season and could very well see the same fate once more. Young players like Henrik Borgstrom, Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trochek, and Jonathan Huberdeau are expected to make considerable contributions to Florida’s cause.

The addition of Mike Hoffman this offseason was a solid acquisition despite his debacle with Erik Karlsson before leaving the Ottawa Senators. He threatens to push the team to new heights which doesn’t bode well for Boston. The Bruins and Panthers could very well find themselves battling each other for a playoff spot in the last few games of the season.

In the end, Boston’s playoff push will not come with guaranteed results. A handful of their division rivals only seem to be getting better heading into the 2018-19 season, creating quite the test for the Bruins this year.