It’s hard to believe, but the Boston Bruins are in the home stretch of their 2021-22 season. After an unimpressive start to the campaign, it seemed like they were destined to be a wild card team in the Eastern Conference. However, since the start of the new year, they have been one of the best teams in the league and have since caught up to their Atlantic Division rivals. Thus, the end of the season is very important, as they now are pushing for home-ice advantage for the playoffs. For the rest of the year, these three Bruins will be very important to watch as they aim to secure it. Let’s now go over why.
Although Jake DeBrusk requested a trade several months ago, the Bruins decided to keep him past the deadline. Their primary goal was to find a player of equal value for the 25-year-old, but at the end of the day, that just didn’t come to fruition. Thus, he will remain with the team for the remainder of the campaign and is a big player to watch moving forward.
DeBrusk has found a new home on the first line and has had mixed results. During his first three games in this role, he was on fire, as he scored five goals and added two assists. Yet, over his last 11 contests, he only has a goal and an assist. Perhaps the uncertainty of his future with the team before the deadline led to this cold streak. Patrice Bergeron being out the last handful of games also hasn’t been doing him any favors. Yet, he now has 18 more games to end the season on a high note.
Even though DeBrusk has gone cold, it’s fair to say that he has had a nice bounce-back season regardless. After recording a disappointing 14-point campaign in 41 games last year, he has 15 goals and 26 points in 59 games this season. If he can hit the 20-goal mark before the season’s done, that would be a major win for him. Furthermore, if he still wants a trade by the offseason, ending the season strongly will help his chances of getting his wish.
Hampus Lindholm was the Bruins’ huge deadline acquisition, so all eyes will naturally be on him for the remainder of the season. General manager (GM) Don Sweeney showed immense confidence in the 28-year-old’s ability already, as he signed him to an eight-year, $52 million contract extension. Keep in mind, this was before the Swedish defenseman even played a game for the team.
Lindholm was fantastic in his debut with the Bruins, as he recorded an assist and a plus-2 rating. With that, fans caught their first glimpse of not only how excellent of a puck-mover he is but also his overall reliability in his zone. If he can keep this kind of play up for the rest of the year, the team will be in excellent shape moving forward.
With the Atlantic Division being immensely competitive, the Bruins desperately needed to improve the left side of their defensive group. With the Lindholm trade, they finally added a defenseman who is capable of playing top-pairing minutes with Charlie McAvoy. It will be intriguing to see how well this duo forms chemistry with one another. It seems like a major necessity for the team if they want to go on a deep playoff run this spring.
Although the Bruins made a huge splash by adding Lindholm to their defense, they failed to bring in a single forward by the trade deadline. This was a bit frustrating for the franchise, as they struck out on players like Andrew Copp and Rickard Rakell. Alas, the team will be running with Erik Haula as their second-line center for the remainder of the campaign because of this. Needless to say, the 31-year-old has a lot of responsibility in this role and will be watched very closely because of it.
Following the deadline, Haula has been excellent, as he has five assists in just two games. This kind of offensive explosion was certainly needed because he was held off the scoresheet in six straight games before it. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time he went pointless in that many games this season, as the same thing occurred last month, too. Thus, for the remainder of the season, a big objective for the Finnish forward is to simply remain consistent. When he’s hot, he looks like a legitimate 2C option, and the Bruins are better because of it.
In 61 games this season, Haula has eight goals, 22 assists, and a plus-8 rating. Although those numbers may not jump out to many people, it is important to note that he only had five points over his first 26 games. Therefore, even with his occasional cold streaks, he has elevated his game significantly since his promotion to the second line. As we get closer to the playoffs, it will be intriguing to see if he can continue to be this much of an offensive threat for the team.
Nevertheless, this last stretch of the games for the Bruins is extremely crucial for the team. It will be fun to see how not only these three players will perform during it, but also the rest of their roster. This last month of regular-season play should be extremely entertaining from here.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHLTradeRumors.me, BBallRumors.com, BaseballRumors.me, FootballRumors.me and The Rat Trick.