Bruins Prepare for Defining Road Trip

Despite dropping games in regulation to the Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres in recent weeks, the Boston Bruins are still surging. Dating back to Nov. 16, the Bruins have compiled a record of 29-5-4, good for a win-percentage of 76 percent. That type of success doesn’t happen by accident, and it’s been a testament to general manager Don Sweeney’s vision, head coach Bruce Cassidy’s leadership and the tremendous skill, effort and chemistry of every single player on the roster.

Bruins celebration
Bruins celebration, Dec. 2, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With the team performing so well for what’s amounted to 46 percent of the season, there’s no reason to believe they’ll slow down anytime soon. Still, they’ll have to be cautious as they’re preparing to go on a five-game road trip that will see them face the Vancouver Canucks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs and a rematch from their recent 4-2 loss against the Buffalo Sabres.

While that list of teams ranges from playoff contention to lottery contention, it will be important for the Bruins to play each game with the same level of focus and effort. As mentioned, the Bruins recently dropped an ugly loss to the Sabres at home on Feb. 10 and if they would like to avoid that type of result again, they can’t underestimate a team just because of their place in the standings.

Trap Games on Deck

When the Bruins face off against the Canucks on Saturday, they’ll look for a repeat of their dominant 6-3 performance that came in October. The game served as the 2017-18 for Patrice Bergeron who came out on fire with a goal and three assists after missing the first five games of the season. The Bruins also got a pair of goals from rookie Anders Bjork who will unfortunately not be playing in this game after suffering an injury that’s resulted in him wearing a sling on his arm in recent weeks.

Patrice Bergeron Bruins
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins, Dec. 2, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As has often been the case in recent years, the Canucks are one of the worst teams in the league with a 22-28-6 record, good for 50 points in 28th place in the league. It’s for that reason that this game can be seen as a trap game for the Bruins as the Canucks are easy to underestimate, but shouldn’t be disrespected on the ice. It’ll be the same when the Bruins face off against the Edmonton Oilers just a few days later.

The last time these two teams faced off, a late-November affair, the result was anything but good for the Bruins. Scoring only two goals in the game, the Bruins suffered a 4-2 loss to the Oilers who saw multi-point efforts from the usual suspects in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Containing the Oilers offense is never an easy task given the talent they have up front despite the fact that they sit in 22nd in the league in scoring. Sitting in 27th in the league standings, the Oilers have no business winning this game – that’s what makes trap games so dangerous.

(James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins will close out their road trip with a game against the Sabres who will be without Jack Eichel in the contest. That didn’t stop the Sabres from taking down the Bruins in their most recent matchup, however, as Eichel was injured against the Bruins just a few weeks ago. If the Bruins can steer clear of losing to any of these three games, it’ll be a good sign for their preparedness heading forward.

Flames and Leafs are No Laughing Matter

In what will serve as the second of a three-games-in-four-nights stretch, the Bruins will face off against the Flames just two days after their tilt with the Canucks and one night before their matchup with the Oilers. The Flames have been a good team this season despite scoring only 159 goals. One of the worst teams in terms of goals scored, the Flames happen to be one of the better teams in terms of goals-allowed each game.

Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton
TAMPA, FL – JANUARY 11: Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

Their team defense has propelled them to third-place in the Pacific Division. Unfortunately for the Flames, however, their goaltending depth has taken a big hit with the absence of the injured Mike Smith and the departure of Eddie Lack who now plays for the New Jersey Devils. Smith is day-to-day, however, and could find himself back in time for his teams rematch against Boston. The Bruins did just beat the Flames on Tuesday, however, which should bode well for their confidence level going to Calgary next Monday.

As for the Maple Leafs, the story has been much of the same. A very solid offense has carried a shaky defense that sits in the bottom half of the league. While the Maple Leafs have scored an impressive 187 goals this season, good for 3.22 goals per game, they’ve also allowed 2.78 goals against per game.

Nikita Zaitsev
Maple Leafs & Bruins. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Bruins best the Maple Leafs in both of those categories, but with a 34-19-5 record and 73 points, the Maple Leafs have proven to be as good a team as any this year. The Bruins do sit five points ahead of Toronto with three games in hand at the time of this writing, but any extra breathing room the Bruins can create will be helpful down the stretch. Coming off a 4-1 victory against the Maple Leafs on Feb. 3, this game will be a good way to prove they have what it takes to consistently beat good teams.

This road trip will be big in showing how good the Bruins actually are. Winning consistently is one thing. Winning consistently on the road is a totally different thing. If the Bruins can come back from this trip with wins in at least four of these games, they should feel good about where they are as a group. Even if three of the teams on this road trip are having less than stellar years.