Bruins’ 3-Game Losing Streak Isn’t Cause for Panic

The unthinkable has happened. The Boston Bruins have lost multiple games in a row. Three of them! Can you believe it? Is this team trying to tank for Connor Bedard?

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Oh, wait, hold on. Even with these losses, the team still holds the best record in the league? You’re telling me that even after Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Bruins are still nine points clear of their southern rivals for the Presidents’ Trophy and top spot in the Eastern Conference? Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying. Although the team is mired in its longest losing streak since April of 2022, there is no reason for panic. Here are some of the factors that led to this downturn and why they aren’t actually catastrophic. 

Difficult Opponents in Rapid Succession

Some of the panic over the three-game skid stems from the opponents the Bruins played. Each of the losses came at the hands of a divisional opponent, meaning each loss has a greater impact on the standings than a loss to a Western Conference team would. In the losses to the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, the Bruins fell to Atlantic Division goes. The Hurricanes loss, while not directly impacting the Atlantic Division playoff race, could still impact playoff seeding and matchups come April.

Carolina Hurricanes Bench Celebration
Carolina Hurricanes Bench Celebrates a Goal (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

What is important to remember about each loss is the pedigree of the team playing the Bruins. This is not an excuse, but these three teams were all preseason Stanley Cup contenders. The Lightning are a team who have represented the Eastern Conference three years in a row in the Stanley Cup Final, winning two championships. In the Panthers, the Bruins faced last season’s Presidents’ Trophy winners, who arguably got better with their offseason acquisition of Matthew Tkachuk. In the Canes, Boston faced off against the team that eliminated them from the playoffs last season and the team that is second in the NHL this season.

These are not lottery teams. Now yes, it would have been nice to add more wins against these teams that could help “set the tone” or whatever other cliche you may prefer in terms of beating potential postseason opponents, but these outcomes will hold little weight in postseason hockey. 

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On top of the quality of these teams, the Bruins played three games in four nights. That is a lot of hockey to play in a short stretch of time, especially when factoring in travel. Unlike most seasons, the back-to-back did not occur in Florida. Rather, the Bruins had a day off between visiting Tampa and the Panthers. But immediately following the game in Sunrise, the team jetted up to Raleigh to play the Canes less than 24 hours after the OT loss.

No matter the conditioning a team has, having this stretch will wear on the legs and fitness of a club. Now add in the time of the year, knowing that the All-Star break is coming at the end of the week, and fatigue naturally affects the team. With the All-Star break and a week off following the game, the Bruins will have ample opportunity to rest and recover. 

Missing Jake DeBrusk

Besides playing three difficult divisional opponents, the Bruins were forced to play without their first-line right-winger, Jake DeBrusk. Having been sidelined since the Winter Classic with a fracture in his leg, his absence has changed the makeup of the team. In his place, Taylor Hall and Craig Smith have regularly rotated through the top line, with David Pastrnak reprising his role on the perfection line multiple times throughout each game. Hall and Smith have shown little sustainable impact, and while Pastrnak is a great fit, by sliding him up a line, his absence becomes even more pronounced on the second line. 

DeBrusk has continued his exceptional play from last season following his promotion to the first line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. With those same linemates this year, DeBrusk is producing .83 points per game. He has continued improving his 200-foot game, getting to the point that head coach Jim Montgomery can trust him at even strength, on the top power play, and as a regular penalty killer, something that would have been inconceivable in the not-so-distant past. 

This improvement is a vital cog in the Bruins’ ascension to the top of the league’s standings. With DeBrusk on the top line, their lineup becomes dramatically deeper. When he can occupy his spot alongside Bergeron and Marchand, he can push Pastrnak back to the “second” line with David Krejci and Pavel Zacha. The Czeching Line has proved a dominant force, providing the second line of scoring that championship teams need.

DeBrusk’s availability also allows Montgomery to keep Hall on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Trent Frederic. While Hall may not be a typical third-line checker, he has found success playing with that group to the tune of .64 P/G, proving especially potent at scoring while at even strength. Down to the fourth line, DeBrusk’s presence allows A.J. Greer and Craig Smith to continue rotating at right wing, while Nick Foligno can stay glued to the left side rather than constantly shuffling up the lineup.

Nick Foligno Boston Bruins
Nick Foligno, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Foligno specifically has found a career resurgence on this fourth line, finding linemates and usage that best match his style of play and have allowed him to rack up a much greater point total than last year. While he has moved up the lineup during various games, he is best in a fourth-line, physical, hard-forechecking role he plays on his normal unit. 

Impact on the Bruins’ Season

There is next to no impact on the entirety of the season based on this three-game losing streak. Maybe the predictions for total wins or the ability to set a new NHL points record may be a bit more up in the air today than they were a week ago, but this team is still unbelievably good. The Bruins set an NHL record for the fastest team to 80 points in a season, completing the task in two fewer games than the 1943-44 Montreal Canadiens and 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers. For reference, that Canadiens team won the Cup, and the Flyers lost in the Final as the New York Islanders started their dynasty. The Bruins continue to pace the league in wins and points, holding the nine-point lead in the Presidents’ Trophy race mentioned above, and have six more wins than the next closest teams. 

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These three losses will also not be games that can be held over the Bruins when the playoffs roll around. Yes, they lost three straight, but all three games took place over four days. The condensed schedule led to tired legs, which hampered the Bruins. They also were missing their top right wing. With DeBrusk back in the fold and the lineup back to what it was prior to his injury, the Bruins are a much deeper team that has handled each of the three opponents earlier in the season. 

So, Bruins fans, just as Aaron Rodgers said to Packers fans years ago, “R-E-L-A-X.” It will all work out. The sky is not falling.

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