Bruins Entering Most Important Stretch of the Season

The Boston Bruins lost to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. The matchup marked the beginning of a stretch of five-straight games against Atlantic Division opponents in just nine days.

It may just be the most important stretch of the season for the Bruins who currently rest in fourth place within the division. Three of the four games remaining in this streak are on the road, beginning down south when Boston takes on the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

Bruins Lose Emotional Battle

The Bruins dropped the ball when they hosted the Red Wings on Saturday. As the second period was winding down, Brad Marchand threw a clean hit on Nick Jensen but Tyler Bertuzzi stepped in to give the rat a piece of his mind. The exchange continued to escalate as Colby Cave cross-checked Bertuzzi who had continued to follow Marchand around the ice. A penalty was called, so goaltender Jimmy Howard headed for the bench so Detroit could get the extra skater on the ice.

Brad Marchand Bruins
Brad Marchand instigated an altercation between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

This is when Marchand wrote the next chapter in his book of dirty deeds. He took a hack at Howard and, following something between a scrum and a line brawl, it was clear that emotions were flaring up on both benches. With Howard dragged into the skirmish, Tuukka Rask headed to the neutral zone to ensure that his team was not outnumbered. Penalties were handed out and the two teams finished out the period and headed off the ice, clearly fuming.

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It was Detroit who was able to put these raw emotions to use. After being up 1-0 at the end of the first period, the Bruins were down 2-1 entering the third. They were able to crawl back to a tie thanks to a power-play goal from Ryan Donato, but they simply fell behind from there. While the Red Wings continued to be outshot, they still seemed to have the Bruins on their heels. They were the quicker team in the third period and used their speed to take a 3-2 lead with roughly eight minutes to go in the contest. Boston tried to tie the game once again, but Gustav Nyquist’s empty-net goal buried their chances and solidified a 4-2 win for Detroit.

How Boston performed in the third period is concerning. There is always the fact that the Bruins are down a number of key players, including Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron, but that cannot be blamed in this circumstance. They had won the first period and weren’t afraid to respond when things got heated, but couldn’t capitalize on a raucous crowd who had become bloodthirsty after the alteration during the second period. With the wind of home ice at their backs, the Bruins failed to raise their sails and allowed Detroit to take an important two points.

Bruins Need Intensity

The Bruins have some of the best teams in the NHL on their schedule this week, namely the Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Will the injuries be a factor? Of course, but if they expect to survive the Atlantic Division onslaught they will need to crank their energy levels up a notch – possibly to playoff-like intensity.

Brad Marchand David Pastrnak Bruins bench
The Boston Bruins need to regroup and bring some more intensity to this week’s games. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

That’s been something the Bruins have been lacking this season. Some think that Boston should add an enforcer like John Scott to the roster. However, that is unnecessary and could potentially harm the team. The Bruins have already been struggling with secondary scoring this season. Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci have shown life, but the third and fourth lines haven’t been able to get pucks to the back of the net. Is this enforcer that the Bruins so desperately need going to solve that problem? No, that enforcer would likely dig that hole even deeper.

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The Bruins have already proven that they can fight their opponent. Now they need to prove that they can fight where it counts: in the corners, in the crease, and on the scoreboard. Boston answered the call when the gloves hit the ice on Saturday, so lacking a bona fide enforcer isn’t much of a problem. It’s taking those physical altercations and using it to their advantage that the Bruins have failed to do so far this season.

Boston will take on the Panthers on Tuesday and the Lightning on Thursday – both on the road. It would be a huge boost to morale if the team were to come out with four points in those two games. At the very least, they must take care of Florida and keep up with Tampa Bay.

Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson
The Boston Bruins will return to action when they take on the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

Following their trip down south, the Bruins will return home to host the Maple Leafs on Saturday. Emotions will be running high with the memories of a recent playoff series still fresh. Boston’s Atlantic Division streak will finish when they travel north of the border to take on the Ottawa Senators.

Including the date with Detroit, this stretch of games is worth 10 points. With only eight points left in play, it is critical that the Bruins salvage at least five in these next four games. When the 2018-19 season comes to a close, we may look back upon the first week of December and see how much it impacted the playoff tree – especially for the boys in black and gold.