It’s official: the Boston Bruins are going to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year and the 75th time in team history. Given the expectations for this team and looking at the current roster, it isn’t necessarily a surprise that they made it. The real question this season has always been, does this team have enough depth to go far in the postseason once they reach the playoffs?
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Given their play in recent weeks with injuries sidelining David Pastrnak and Hampus Lindholm, and Jeremy Swayman hitting a bit of a slump, the answer may be no. Just a few weeks ago, the Bruins looked like they could match up with and beat anyone in the league. Now, not so much. They did have an excellent win yesterday against the New York Rangers, showing what they can do when guys are healthy.
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If you want to try to be hopeful, remember that the Bruins were really riding momentum into last season’s postseason and then petered out in the second round. No matter how rough things look now, all that truly matters is how they look once they hit the ice for the first game of round one.
With only four games left in the regular season, it’s time to start making some predictions for what will happen this postseason. Last season, my playoff predictions weren’t very accurate so hopefully this year will be better on many fronts for the Bruins.
Brad Marchand Returns to Form
Brad Marchand has had an up and down season. There have been some incredible highs, including his excellent on ice play, and the lows of his two suspensions this season and becoming the most suspended player in the history of the NHL. The suspensions continue to overshadow the fact that he has become one of the best players in the NHL.
Marchand is currently working through another low of his season as he works through a ten-game scoring drought, the worst slump of his season. As the heart of these team, his drought and the injuries in the lineup are a huge contributing factor to the Bruins’ recent struggles.
But, never count Marchand out. Again, this is a guy who has gone from a fifth-round draft pick to one of the elite NHL talents. Without the suspensions, he easily would be pushing 100 points on the season once again. I firmly believe that he can and will rise to the occasion and when the postseason finally starts, he’ll be the same player we all know him to be.
I think it is a pretty safe bet to believe that he’ll be the top scorer on the roster and will have at least one game winning goal in the first round of the playoffs. Where he goes, the rest of the team does. When he returns to form, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the team return to the level they were three weeks ago before this rough patch hit.
Taylor Hall has a Major Imapct
Over the course of Taylor Hall’s 12-year career, he has only made it to the postseason three times and last year, with the Bruins, was the first time he had made it past the first round. He is a guy who is hungry for a deep playoff run and could play a major factor in the playoffs, especially with Pastrnak healthy again and the second line of the two of them and Erik Haula reunited.
As is the story with most of the roster and the team has a whole, it has been an up and down season for Hall. He has managed to remain healthy all season, and currently sits at 18 goals and 39 assists for 57 points and is a plus-9. This is only the third season of his career he’ll finish as a positive player in the plus/minus category. He’s third overall on this roster in points, right above Patrice Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy, who sit at 56 and 54 points on the season.
There have been stretches of excellence and stretches where he disappears, and whichever version of Hall shows up in the playoffs could be very telling on how the postseason will go. As one would expect with a team, it works best when everyone is locked in and playing to their strengths.
Hall is not the same player who won the Hart Trophy in 2018, registered 93 points, and almost single-handedly dragged the New Jersey Devils into the playoffs, but he is not far removed from being that guy. If he can tap into that version of himself and the strong desire he had to play in his first NHL playoff game, then he could be exactly what the Bruins need for a deep postseason run.
First Round Features At Least Two Overtime Games
Who the Bruins will face off against in the first round of the playoffs is still very much in the air. They are only three points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning, who currently sit in third in the Atlantic Division. The Bruins currently sit in the first wildcard spot, and if the playoffs started today, they would face off against the top seed in the Metro Division, the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Bruins lost all three of their regular season matchups to the Hurricanes, so moving into third in the Atlantic and facing off against the number two seed, the Toronto Maple Leafs, would probably be a more favorable matchup. Especially with the playoff history between the Leafs and the Bruins.
No matter who they face off against, expect tightly contested games. In recent years, more and more NHL playoff games have been going to overtime. Who can forget Tampa Bay and the Columbus Blue Jackets going to five overtimes in the 2020 Playoffs?
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Last season, the Bruins went to overtime in three out of their five games against the Washington Capitals in the first round and in two out of their six games against the New York Islanders in the second round. Round one, Game 2 even went to double overtime.
Given how talented teams are in the NHL and how tightly contested games can be on any given night, it isn’t a far stretch to predict the Bruins having at least two overtime games again in the first round of the playoffs.
And if they do sneak into the third spot in the Atlantic and face off against the Leafs, you know the series will go to Game 7 and be decided in overtime.
Bruins Must Buy In
There are some obvious question marks regarding health when it comes to the Bruins at the moment, but the biggest thing for the team heading into the playoffs is buying in. Look at the Montreal Canadiens last season. They were never supposed to reach the Stanley Cup Final, but that was a roster that truly bought into what the coaching staff was saying and believed in each other. It may sound cheesy, but believing that you are the best team and are capable of winning it all can go a long way.
At points this season, the Bruins really have felt like a team that has bought in. When you take into consideration that they held onto Jake DeBrusk at the trade deadline despite his trade request, it’s clear that the front office isn’t settling for another second round exit. The guys on the ice shouldn’t either.
The window is closing on Bergeron and Marchand. If they want to get another Cup for the hearts of this team, then they better truly buy in.