To say the Boston Bruins just completed a successful road trip would be an understatement. Starting with a 3-2 overtime win against the Seattle Kraken on Feb. 24 and ending with a 5-4 shootout win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 5, the Bruins would ultimately go 5-1-0 over the span of the trip. In between those two wins, the Bruins would come away with victories against the San Jose Sharks (3-1), Los Angeles Kings (7-0) and Vegas Golden Knights (5-2).
Even the lone loss only came after the Bruins allowed a goal with just over 20 seconds remaining in regulation against the Anaheim Ducks (allowing late goals in periods remains a trend the team still hasn’t seemed to figure out consistently yet as they also allowed the Blue Jackets to tie Saturday’s game at 4-4 and force overtime with just over two seconds remaining on the clock). Well within range of winning that game against the Ducks and going 6-0-0, the Bruins in general should be very happy with what they’ve accomplished since their last game at home.
The Bruins will return to action just two days after the conclusion of this trip on Monday, March. 7 in a rematch against the Kings for their first home game since Feb. 21 and should be greeted by a raucous crowd at TD Garden amid the run they’re currently on. Before they get to that game, though, it feels appropriate to take a step back and look at what this team has to be proud of given their recent stretch of games.
Bruins Are Once Again Among the NHL’s Best Teams
The start of the 2021-22 season was as mediocre as it gets. The Bruins were dealing with an inconsistent schedule and, as a result, simply couldn’t find a groove upon which to build any chemistry or sustained success. Combine that with a bevy of new players, a hole at starting goaltender and at second-line center for the first time in over a decade and things just weren’t falling in the Bruins’ favor.
Fast-forward to March of 2022, however, and the Bruins have seemingly put all of the pieces together despite so many holes still plaguing their lineup. The need for a true No. 2 center, a top-six right-winger who can replace Jake DeBrusk in that spot (due to the young winger’s continued desire to be traded) and another top-four defender aren’t easy issues to overcome.
For many teams, missing that many high-profile pieces would likely have them sitting somewhere in the bottom half of the standings. The Bruins, however, have the ninth-most points in the NHL, have the eighth-most wins and also have the 10th-best point percentage in the league.
This team may not be pretty and they could certainly use help, but they’re nothing if not resourceful and hardworking. Though they may not have gotten the recognition they deserve this season due to the fact that they sit in a wildcard spot and not a full-fledged playoff spot, that’s due to the fact that the Eastern Conference has been so competitive this season more than anything.
If the Bruins were in the Western Conference, they would sit comfortably in third place in the conference. They’d be either the second-place team in the Pacific Division or the second-place in the Central Division behind only the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche, the latter of whom happen to be the NHL’s best team this season.
The Bruins aren’t the NHL’s best team and certainly still need work, but they’re far from a bad team.
Bruins Getting Production From Important Players
Some notable players who stepped up in a huge way during this trip include Jeremy Swayman (4-0-0 with a .936 save percentage and a 1.75 goals-against average with one shutout), Jake DeBrusk (six goals and eight points in six games with one hat trick), Craig Smith (four goals and seven points in six games with one hat trick) and Erik Haula (three goals and eight points in six games). There were others who also performed well throughout this stretch, but these four players stand out for specific reasons.
For Swayman, stepping in and picking up right where Tuukka Rask left off last season as this team’s best goaltender has been the difference between the Bruins near the bottom of the standings and right near the top. DeBrusk may be interested in a fresh start outside of Boston, but he’s currently being tasked with playing top-line right-wing minutes and he’s delivering in spades. Haula may not be a typical No. 2 center in the NHL and if the Bruins can find an upgrade at the Trade Deadline, they undoubtedly will; for now, though, he’s been excellent between David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall.
As for Smith, he may not be playing in a top-six role anymore, but he’s certainly delivering on a line with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic as of late.
The Bruins will need to make significant upgrades at the Trade Deadline if they want to have any chance of competing in the very competitive Eastern Conference in the postseason. For now, though, the players they’re currently rolling with have proven that they can get the job done when need be and have kept the Bruins within striking distance of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for seven years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.