Raise your hand if you’ve heard this one before; the Boston Bruins are getting above-average play from their defense, goaltending and special teams. Now raise your hand if you’ve heard this one; the Bruins are struggling to produce points at even strength.
Dating back to the end of February, the Bruins have allowed one goal in five consecutive games. Included in those contests are a 4-1 victory against the New York Rangers, a 2-1 shootout loss to the Washington Capitals, a 5-1 win against the Capitals, a 1-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils and a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders.
Going 2-1-2 in a five-game stretch when allowing only five goals total is unacceptable. It’s also an indictment on the Bruins’ offense being unable to produce offensively, especially when considering that the Bruins are capable of scoring, they just aren’t doing so consistently.
For the most part, the team’s offense has come from their top line, but the team also showed what they’re capable of in their 5-1 win against the Capitals when pushed to the limit. In a game that saw the Bruins lose Brandon Carlo to a hit that resulted in a seven-game suspension for Tom Wilson, the Bruins would explode for what was potentially their best performance of the season, scoring five goals at even strength.
Unfortunately, the Bruins haven’t been able to tap into that type of play on a consistent basis. To put it in perspective, the Bruins have two players who have scored double-digit goal totals this season and only five players who have scored five goals or more.
Even worse is the fact that Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci have combined for just one goal on the year. Though the team is undeniably better with Krejci on the ice than they are without him, they need him to start putting the puck in the net if they want to have any success this season.
DeBrusk has most recently been seen as a health scratch and in an ideal world, that sends a message to him and the rest of the team that the effort-levels across the board need to be improved.
Bruins Failing to Get Offensive Production From Depth Forwards or Defenders
Scoring from the forwards is undeniably a need, but the team’s issues don’t start and end there. Their defense, who have played tremendously well this season despite both Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug departing in free agency and various injuries creating obstacles, have failed to be a factor on the offensive side of the game.
Outside of Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk (when healthy), the team has gotten just two goals and 19 points from Jakub Zboril, Brandon Carlo, Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton, Kevan Miller, Urho Vaakanainen, John Moore and Jarred Tinordi combined. Driving offense from the back-end is an important part of the game and the Bruins simply haven’t gotten that yet this season.
It’s tricky to pin-point the issue specifically though. Is the defense struggling to produce points because the offense can’t capitalize on their opportunities? Are the forwards struggling to produce because the defense isn’t helping drive play? In reality, the answer lies somewhere in the middle and there’s a fair share of blame to go around.
This wouldn’t be such a big issue if this was a new dilemma that appeared to only be plaguing the team through the first 23 games of the season. That isn’t the case, however, as the Bruins have struggled to produce at five-on-five for years and the issue has yet to be rectified.
The Bruins have been able to get by with their dominant line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak carrying the load alongside a white-hot power play. The lack of offense being produced from the remainder of the lineup and at even strength has been an issue for years now though and the Bruins can’t seem to find a way to rectify the problem.
Bruins Have Tried to Make Additions
While Coyle has proven to be a very good pickup for the team, Kase has had the unfortunate fate of dealing with multiple concussions and injuries throughout his career that has limited him to just eight regular-season games and 11 postseason games with the Bruins. Smith has scored four goals and nine points through 22 games and has looked good in his time in Boston. Still, none of these moves ever appeared to be enough individually to put the Bruins over the hump or fix their issues by themselves.
The Bruins trading Danton Heinen to acquire Nick Ritchie has seemingly worked out for the Bruins so far this season, but Ritchie also can’t be expected to be a game-changing player.
The Bruins could look to use Zach Senyshyn – four goals and eight points in 10 AHL games this season, to boost their depth production. Still, relying on a player with just six NHL games to his name to be the savior of the team just feels like another instance of the Bruins swinging for a single and not a home-run. He was added to the team’s taxi-squad, though, and could seem some playing time at some point this season.
It would be unfair to look at the moves the Bruins have made and claimed that they’ve felt complacent and haven’t tried to bolster their depth. It would also be unfair to look at these moves and say that the Bruins have always made the best moves or have exhausted all of their options, though
Bruins Missed on Some Free Agency Gems
The Bruins decision to not go out and sign players like Tyler Toffoli and Mike Hoffman, both of whom were available well into free agency, was a curious one. With the Bruins needing offensive production and the team having shown interest in acquiring Toffoli in the past, it’s curious that they wouldn’t jump on the chance to sign the 28-year-old to the four-year, $17 million deal he got from the Montreal Canadiens.
Toffoli has been excellent this season, scoring 15 goals and 21 points in 24 games and giving it his all on every single shift. While it’s easy to look at Toffoli’s numbers and bring up the fact that eight goals and 11 of his points have come in six games against the Vancouver Canucks, his seven goals and 10 points against the other five teams in the North Division would rank fifth and seventh on the Bruins respectively.
Hoffman, on the other hand, signed a very team-friendly one-year, $4 million contract and has scored seven goals and 18 points this season. Such a low-risk deal (that was only signed in January, three months after the start of free agency), should have been very enticing to the Bruins, but the team decided to run with Smith as their only addition and go from there.
Signing even one of the other two players mentioned would have made all the difference this offseason, even if it meant figuring out the salary cap ramifications of such a deal.
Clearly it takes two to tango and there’s no guarantee that either Toffoli or Hoffman would have wanted to sign in Boston, but the fact that both were looking for contracts, Toffoli signing his deal on Oct. 12, 2020 and Hoffman on Jan. 11, 2021, should be an indication that the Bruins could have done something.
Bruins Need to Make a Swing at the Trade Deadline
The Bruins are going to have to make a move at the trade deadline to acquire a top-six winger. Again, raise your hand if you’ve heard this before. They’ll also probably have to go out and make a splash to acquire a top-four defender who can help the team produce offensively from the back-end.
A team like the Nashville Predators could be intriguing with players Like filip Forsberg and Mattias Elkholm being obvious targets for a Bruins team who have a closing Championship Window.
It’s time to throw caution to the wind and make a huge splash for the Bruins as players like Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand and Rask simply aren’t getting any younger. The team has an opportunity to be one of the most lethal teams in the NHL, they just need to find offensive consistency and that doesn’t appear to be coming from within their lineup at this point.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.