It’s been nothing but smiles for the Boston Bruins so far this year.
After rolling past the New York Rangers on Wednesday, the team pulled within one point of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who had a league-best 75 points. Although Tampa extended their lead to three points Thursday, the Bruins still have two games in hand.
The Bruins got hot in mid-November when they started a streak in which they earned points in 31 of their last 35 games. This run, which is unprecedented in the NHL, helped land the Bruins in the top spot of the NHL’s Super 16. If the season were to end today, the Bruins would be the second seed in the East and would be taking on the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the playoffs.
There is little doubt that the Bruins will be in the playoffs, even if they play poorly for the remainder of the season. The real questions come in once April rolls around and the playoff beards start growing. Does this young Bruins team have what it takes to win it all this year?
The easy answer is: why not?
They have all of the pieces that make a team great and with the way they’re playing now, they seem simply unstoppable. A big part of being successful in the playoffs, especially in the NHL, is momentum. With that said, earning points in 31 of 35 games isn’t enough to win the Stanley Cup Finals. A legitimate contender has to have a combination of great goaltending, a potent offense, and a shut-down defense.
As far as goaltending goes, the Bruins have been lucky enough to get great play from both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin. Rask has been on fire as of late, going 19-0-2 since Nov. 29. When Rask isn’t starting, Khudobin has been relatively stable as well, going 4-3-2 in the same time span.
The Bruins goaltending, while getting wins, has also done an incredible job of limiting opponent’s scoring. Throughout the season, Rask and Khudobin have combined for a GAA of just 2.19. This allows the team to not necessarily rely on its high-powered offense, which has made a name for itself.
The Bruins’ offense and defense have been playing at an elite level all season, kicking it into even higher gear in these past few months. Brad Marchand, who has only played in 39 games this season, is already at 51 points; tied with David Pastrnak for the team lead. The Bruins’ young core is also doing its job and producing at a very high level, including Danton Heinen, who has 38 points, and Jake DeBrusk, who has 28.
The Bruins seem to have all of the pieces needed to make a deep playoff run this year. With the trade deadline quickly approaching, it will be interesting to see what the Bruins do. Will they make moves and rent out a veteran for a playoff bump? Or will they believe in their young players to hoist the Cup at the end of the season?