It’s been just over a week since the Boston Bruins beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in their final game before the All-Star break on Jan. 21 at the TD Garden. Their return to the ice after a long layoff will begin on the road on Jan. 31 at the Winnipeg Jets. Boston will play 18 of their final 31 games away from home.
With a seven-point lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division, how the season ends and where they will be slotted come playoff time will depend on how the Bruins handle the grind of their schedule. With that said, here are five Bruins that will need to produce down the stretch of the regular- season.
5. Patrice Bergeron
Patrice Bergeron, Boston’s first-line center, has averaged nearly a point-per-game in just 42 games this year. He has 21 goals and 20 assists playing with the gifted goalscorer David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand.
Winning almost 60 percent of his faceoffs at 34 years old, he averages 19:18 a night on the ice. He is second on the team with eight power-play goals and eight assists for the league’s third-ranked unit. The Bruins will need Bergeron to continue at his high level for the rest of the season.
4. Torey Krug
His contract expires at the end of the season, but Torey Krug has not let that stop him from being the constant presence on the blue line. Missing eight games with injuries this season, he still can hit the 50-point mark for the fourth straight season.
He has five goals (including an end-to-end rush in an overtime win over the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 23) and 27 assists this year, but at 5-foot-9, he is one of the leaders on the team. With the injuries that the defensive group has been hit with before the break, it will be vital to the Bruins that he stays healthy as he averages just over 20 minutes a night of ice time.
3. Brad Marchand
Brad Marchand has struggled since Thanksgiving, scoring just three goals. The little ball of hate does have 19 assists over that span, but with his goal production down, that puts more pressure on the first line with the inconsistency of their secondary lines.
To add insult to injury, Marchand’s embarrassing moment on Jan. 13 in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers when he missed the puck at center ice summed up his scoring struggles over the last two months.
Marchand has played in all 51 games this season and is currently sixth in the league in scoring with 21 goals and 44 assists. The Bruins could use his return to the hot start he had to the season with 18 goals in the first two months in the final 31 games. Not participating in the All-Star Game and getting a 10-day break should help.
2. Tuukka Rask
On injured reserve since sustaining his second concussion in a year on Jan. 9 at the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tuukka Rask is close to returning. With almost a three-week break while working his way back from the concussion, the Bruins hope his play will pick up to what earned him an All-Star Game selection.
Rask owns a 17-4-6 record this year with a 2.27 goals-against average (GAA) and a .925 save percentage (SV%). Backup Jaroslav Halak has held the fort down, but a healthy Rask on his game to where he was last year will be a key for Boston going down the stretch.
1. David Pastrnak
Where else would you go other than the All-Star Game MVP? Leading the league in goals with 37, David Pastrnak is the running for the Hart Trophy with Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. Barring an injury, he is almost a lock for 50 goals.
Just 23 years old, Pastrnak has become one of the most gifted scorers in the league. He leads the team with 16 power-play goals and 11 assists on the man advantage. Whether it’s 5-on-5 or on the power play, he seems to find a way to score with his talent as he has fired 200 shots on net this year. As Pastrnak goes, so do the Bruins. If Boston is going to get the top-seed in the Eastern Conference and hold off the fast charging Lightning and Florida Panthers in the Atlantic Division, they will need him to produce at the rate he has in the first 51 games.