Through the first nine games of the 2021-22 season, the Boston Bruins have had their share of ups and downs. They sit at 5-4 and in sixth place in the Atlantic Division behind some of the top teams not only in the division and the Eastern Conference, but some of the best teams league-wide.
With 73 games remaining on the schedule and five long months ahead of them, there is still plenty of hockey left to be played. Are the Bruins a playoff team? That remains to be seen, but if they are going to get into the postseason, they need to fix some of the trends that they have endured through the first month of the season.
Bruins Losing Record vs. Top Teams in Eastern Conference
One quick look at the Bruins schedule shows that they have played one of the toughest to date in the league. However, it is concerning that they are 1-4 against the top teams in the Eastern Conference, with losses to the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Philadelphia Flyers. All four teams are well over .500 and all project to be playoff teams. The Black and Gold did beat the Panthers at the TD Garden on Oct. 30, 3-2, in a shootout when Charlie Coyle scored the deciding goal, but the four losses to the teams mentioned above were not even close.
Boston has been outscored by a combined 18-6 in their losses, with all four losses coming by three goals. Not good. There is no shame in losing to those teams, but losing by three goals in each game is extremely concerning. To make matters worse, all of the losses have been on the road. If you want to be a playoff team, winning on the road is an almost must during the regular season. Boston is 4-0 at the TD Garden, but the hunch here is that they won’t go 41-0 on Causeway St. this season. Their 1-4 road record, with the only road win coming against the Buffalo Sabres, needs to improve and improve fast.
The Bruins have played two games against Western Conference opponents, both wins at home against the Dallas Stars, 3-1, on Oct. 16 and a 4-3 win over the San Jose Sharks on Oct. 24. The third Western Conference opponent taking the ice in Boston is Connor McDavid and the high-flying Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night. This one is sure to be fun and another measuring stick for coach Bruce Cassidy’s team.
Bruins Penalty Kill Needs to Be Better
It seems for now that the Bruins have figured out their power play, but their penalty killing is leaving a lot to be desired early in the season. In their last four games, they have allowed at least one man-advantage goal, with Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs burning them for two goals in a 5-2 loss on Nov. 6.
Matthews scored both goals in the final five minutes of the second period of a 1-1 game at the time. The second goal was the backbreaker as Derek Forbort, who was bought in during the offseason for his penalty-killing, had a chance to send the puck the length of the ice to relieve the pressure, but his weak attempt did not get out of the zone and Matthews, last seasons Maurice Rocket Richard winner, made Forbort and Boston pay with a goal.
It’s no secret that the Bruins rely on their special teams and have been one of the top penalty-killing teams in the league in recent years, but allowing too many power play goals is not a recipe for success. If this doesn’t change, then the Black and Gold are in trouble.
Bruins Lacking Scoring Depth
Brad Marchand has single-handily carried the Bruins offense through the first nine games with four goals and 10 assists. His two linemates, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak have been hot and cold early in the season. Bergeron has four goals and four assists, but the goals were scored all in one game in a 5-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 4. Pastrnak has three goals and three assists, despite a team-high 39 shots on the net.
After that, the pickings are slim. Taylor Hall and Charlie Coyle each have three goals and Jake DeBrusk has two. The Bruins have been outscored 26-25 by their opponents, and the most troubling stat might be the two zeros next to Craig Smith’s name. If your second-line right wing has a goose egg next to his name through the first six games he has played, that is not going to help your top-six production-wise.
It has been nine games, but these are some of the concerning trends that are facing the Bruins. There is still time to turn things around, but it needs to happen sooner rather than later. The Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference are as deep as they have been in some time, which is why it’s key for Boston to turn some of the trends in the other direction if they want to be a playoff team in 2022.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.