When the Boston Bruins embarked on their six-game road trip beginning Feb. 24, with 12 points on the table against some tough Western Conference opponents, banking six or seven points would have been considered a good trip. The Black and Gold did better than that as they secured 10 points, going 5-1-0 and coming home in seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings.
With the trade deadline two weeks away on March 21, the puck is in general manager Don Sweeney’s corner as to what he is going to do with additions to the roster for the remainder of the season and into the postseason. As the Bruins get their feet back on the ground at home, here are three takeaways from what should be considered a very good 10 days away from the TD Garden.
Froden Fit In Well on Fourth Line and Adds Depth
Prior to the trip, the Bruins called up Jesper Froden and returned Jack Studnicka to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL). He was inserted into the lineup against the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 26 on the fourth line when Curtis Lazar was injured in the second period of the Black and Gold’s 3-2 overtime win over the Seattle Kraken on Feb. 24. Lazar suffered an upper-body injury in the second period after just under four minutes of ice time in the game.
Froden, who the Bruins signed as a free agent in June of 2021, was having a good season in Providence with 12 goals and 15 assists in 37 games. He is not a young prospect at 27 years old and played like a veteran. No, he did not find the scoresheet but fit in very well on the fourth line with Tomas Nosek and Nick Foligno. He brought energy, took care of the puck, and was solid on the forecheck. In fact, the case could be made that they were the best line in a 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on March 1. He is averaging 12:07 of time on ice this season, with six shots on the net, six hits, and five blocks, something that is welcomed from a fourth-liner.
Boston’s top three lines contributed in different ways on the trip, but the fourth line, whether it was with Froden or Lazar supplied good depth behind the top-nine. If that continues the rest of the season, that gives the Bruins another element for opposing teams as depth was an issue earlier this season, and right now it’s making a tougher team to play against.
Penalty Kill Over Shadowed Struggling Power Play
If there was one big takeaway from the trip, it’s that the power play continues to be a concern with its lack of production. They went 3-for-15 on the trip with two goals coming from Patrice Bergeron and one from Erik Haula, his 100th career goal. Bergeron and Haula each had a man-advantage goal in the 7-0 win over the Kings and Bergeron’s second was in the third period against the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday night in a 5-4 shootout win. Included in the struggles on the trip was a two-man advantage in Seattle in the first period along with five attempts in the period that all came away empty-handed.
There has been just too much passing of the puck instead of shooting and their zone entries are not what they have been in the past and leave a lot to be desired and cleaned up. The Bruins are surviving now, but they will more from the power play over the next two months.
On the bright side, the penalty-kill was a big reason for the Bruins collecting five out of six wins on the trip. They killed off 12 of their opponent’s 16 chances, with the two backbreakers coming with 22 seconds left against the Ducks when Trevor Zegras scored to break a 3-3 tie when Charlie McAvoy was called for hooking with 46 seconds left in the game. Jakub Voracek tied Saturday’s game for the Blue Jackets with three seconds left in regulation, but the Black and Gold were able to get the extra point with a shootout victory. Overall, if there’s been one consistency this season for Boston, it’s the penalty killing.
Bruins Have Healthy Trip
Aside from Lazar’s injury against the Kraken, the Bruins avoided other injuries and return back to Boston relatively healthy. Urho Vaakanainen is still recovering from the upper-body injury he sustained on Feb. 1 against Seattle on a hit from Yanni Gourde, but Lazar was back in the lineup earlier than expected. He was able to practice with the team on the trip and was cleared to return to the lineup against the Blue Jackets, where he played just under 12 minutes and had three blocked shots.
The Bruins return home to the TD Garden and begin a homestand with the Kings Monday night at 7 p.m. Going 5-1-0 on their longest road trip of the season and a combined 7-2-1 in their last 10 games on the road, they are set up well to secure an Eastern Conference playoff spot and should be buyers in the next two weeks ahead of the trade deadline at 3 p.m. on March 21.
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.