After missing the playoffs for two consecutive seasons, the Boston Bruins have punched their ticket to the postseason for the second straight year.
It’s been a year of ups and downs for the Bruins who have undoubtedly exceeded all expectations that could have been placed upon them this season. Despite the constant battle with injuries that the Bruins has had to endure from the start of the season to the present, it’s clear that this team’s resolve is too strong to break regardless of the obstacles thrown in their face.
Entering Wednesday’s tilt against the St. Louis Blues with a 45-17-9 record, the Bruins only needed one point to reach the 100-point plateau and clinch a playoff berth. Though the team led for nearly 50 minutes, the Blues managed to tie the game at the 9:38 mark of the third period courtesy of Jaden Schwartz to put some pressure on the Bruins.
As soon as the final second ticked off of the clock in regulation and the game was set to go to overtime, however, the Bruins had accomplished their first goal of the season – qualifying for the postseason.
Donato Making His Mark
With a year highlighted just as much by rookie production as it was by injury, it’s fitting that the Bruins only goal of the night came courtesy of newcomer Ryan Donato. The rookie was playing in just his second NHL game of his career after making his impressive debut Monday that saw him score a goal and record three points against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
With the Bruins already getting invaluable production from rookies like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy, Sean Kuraly, Danton Heinen, Anders Bjork and Matt Grzelcyk, the addition of Donato could have been seen as just another young player stepping up. Given the amount of hype that came with Donato following an impressive run at Harvard and a stellar Olympic performance, however, fans of the Black and Gold were practically salivating in preparation for what the 21-year-old forward could do.
Unfortunately, the Bruins weren’t able to capitalize on Donato’s first two breakout games though as the Bruins fell 2-1 early in overtime to the Blues with Schwartz scoring his second goal of the night just 30 seconds into the extra frame. The outcome wasn’t the one the Bruins were looking for, but the general performance of the team was still something to admire given the circumstances and given the clinched playoff berth.
Bruins Competing Despite Injuries Piling Up
Entering Wednesday’s game in St. Louis, the Bruins were as banged up as they’ve been all season. Notable absences from the game included Patrice Bergeron, Rick Nash, Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, David Backes, McAvoy and DeBrusk. For those keeping track, that list includes three top-six forwards and three top-four defenders as well as a crucial third-line piece in Backes.
On top of the five-on-five production lost amid this stretch of injuries, the seven Bruins mentioned are all key pieces on the team’s power play and penalty kill. With so many impact players missing from the lineup, it’s impressive to think that the Bruins almost won each of their last two games against the Blue Jackets and Blues. Yet somehow, this Bruins team has made a habit of winning games that they have no business even being a part of.
No team in the league has been as badly affected by injury as the Bruins in the 2017-18 season. While many teams might try and make a claim to that distinction, they’d be hard-pressed to put together a legitimate claim as to how their team has been hit harder than Boston.
Still, this team has reached the 100-point mark for the first time since 2013-14 when they won the President’s Trophy with a 54-19-9 record. With this list of injuries seemingly growing with each passing game, the Bruins are finding ways to compete, earn points and often win regardless of who plays and who sits. It’s a testament to head coach Bruce Cassidy who has earned his distinction as one of the best coaches in the NHL this season.
If it weren’t for the success of the Vegas Golden Knights and Gerard Gallant’s (well-deserved and likely) claim to the Jack Adams award this season, Cassidy would have as good a case as anybody for the title. Bringing the Bruins to the promise-land in each of his first two seasons as the bench boss, Cassidy not only has the respect of his locker room, but of the fanbase and media as well.