Are the Bruins Prepared for the Playoff Push?

The Boston Bruins enter the final five games of the season with one thing in mind: make the playoffs. Certainly a strange concept considering the fact that most people and NHL experts counted them out in preseason predictions, listing them outside of the playoff picture. This is the same team that traded away Milan Lucic, Dougie Hamilton and Reilly Smith in the off-season to approach the 2015-16 campaign with a younger, more affordable lineup. While they may have been impressive throughout the season, the Bruins latest woes leave them in a rather precarious position.

On Tuesday night, the Bruins stormed into New Jersey to face a Devils team that won’t be making the playoffs. Boston ended up on the wrong side of the decision, losing 2-1 despite out shooting New Jersey 40-15. The Bruins have now dropped 6 of their last 7 games and are being outscored 21-10 by their opponents. They ended the month of March with a 6-8 record, not the kind of result the Bruins need during the final stretch.

So it makes you wonder: Can the Bruins put together five solid efforts and edge out Detroit for the final spot or will they suffer the same fate that they did last season?

History Repeating Itself?

The 2014-15 season for the Bruins was solid, garnering a 41-27-14 record for 96 points. Only problem was they missed the playoffs. The 96 points became the most recorded by a non-playoff team in NHL history, passing the 2006-07 Colorado Avalanche and 2010-11 Dallas Stars who ended with 95 apiece. The Pittsburgh Penguins kept the final wild card spot with 98 points to keep Boston out.

The team’s final three games led to their demise. They were shutout 3-0 by the Washington Capitals and then beat 4-2 by the Florida Panthers the very next day. When they absolutely needed the points, the Bruins managed to lose two important games late in the season and couldn’t bounce back. Similar to their recent struggles, they were outscored 10-4 in the final three games. Ironically, the most consistent performers towards the end of last season were Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, also like this year.

The Final Five

(Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)
Coach Claude Julien looks to lead Boston to their 8th playoff appearance in 9 seasons. (Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports)

Boston has the opportunity to bounce back from a tough loss in New Jersey. The remaining opponents on the schedule are the St. Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators.

St. Louis might be the toughest of the bunch after going four straight games without a goal against. The Blues are currently riding a five game win streak and possess one of the league’s hottest goalies right now in Brian Elliott, who is sporting a .988% save percentage during that span. In their only match-up this season, the Blues shutout Boston 2-0 on December 22.

The Bruins face the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks on April 3. Chicago has struggled lately, posting just 3 wins in their last 10 games. Boston beat them earlier this month 4-2 in an effort that saw Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Torey Krug and recently acquired Lee Stempniak record two points each.

While the Hurricanes and Senators might not be in the playoff picture, it is never a smart idea to take those teams lightly especially during the last batch of games. It’s always those type of teams that can surprise an opponent if they aren’t careful enough. Detroit, on the other hand, is pining for their 25th consecutive playoff berth and won’t let a divisional opponent take that away from them. The Bruins own the series 2-1 but Detroit made it a high scoring affair on Valentine’s Day.

As it stands right now, the Bruins sit 3rd in the Atlantic Division with 88 points. With the Red Wings just one point behind them, it’s time for the Bruins to dig down and make a hard playoff push otherwise they’ll end their season the same way as last year: out of the playoffs by a small margin.