When the Boston Bruins collected five out of a possible six points on their trip through Western Canada last week, it was a much-needed successful business trip. Boston got solid goaltending, special teams goals, secondary scoring, and all-around good efforts from some of their top players.
After two days off, the Bruins were preparing to hit the ice for their only home game in a seven-game stretch against the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday when news started leaking out of multiple positive COVID-19 tests. In reality, this should not come as a surprise after the Calgary Flames placed nine players from Saturday night’s game against the Black and Gold into protocols Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday, they placed seven more, in what has turned into a massive outbreak. Later Tuesday, the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers, the other two opponents on the recent trip, also placed players that skated against Boston into protocols.
Brad Marchand and Craig Smith were the first two positive cases Tuesday and the Bruins were hoping that it would stop there, but Wednesday morning, the news got worse. Captain Patrice Bergeron was placed into COVID-19 protocols, which means that all three players will miss up to five or six games and won’t be eligible to return until after Christmas. This is going to be the biggest test of the season for Boston over the next couple of weeks.
Bruins Worst Case Scenario Playing Out
The 2021-22 season has already been a struggle through the first 25 games for the Bruins, but now putting three of your top-six forwards into protocols is only going to make the road tougher. Marchand has been the MVP this season and leads the team in just about every statistical category. He leads the team in goals (11), assists (16), and points (27). Factor in his three goals and eight assists on the power play and being the top penalty-killer, it’s a giant loss on more than one front.
Bergeron is the leader and glue of the 2021-22 Bruins and is second behind his left-wing in goals (10), assists (12), and points (23). Smith has been a disappointment this season with two goals and seven points, but again, any subtraction off of the top-six is already testing a lack of depth that Boston has.
All Hands on Deck for Boston
Losing two-thirds of your first line for an extended amount of time is seriously going to test this Bruins team. Already lacking secondary scoring or secondary production in any way is going to make the job of staying above water that much more difficult in the next two weeks. Boston is heading out on another three-game road trip to play the New York Islanders, Montreal Canadiens, and Ottawa Senators. Things are going to get very interesting if the Bruins do make the flight over the border to Canada who has a 14-day quarantine for a positive test, which would keep that Bruin away for two weeks in Canada.
With your top two scores down, if there has ever been a time for all hands on deck for Bruce Cassidy’s crew, it’s now. This is where Taylor Hall, Charlie Coyle, Jake DeBrusk, David Pastrnak, and anyone else wearing the Spoked-B needs to take their game to another level. Jack Studnicka and Oskar Steen have been recalled from the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) and will most likely get an opportunity to show what they can do. There is no reason Studnicka should not see middle-six shifts at center.
Another performance like the one against the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday night is not going to cut it, despite playing three teams below them in the standings in the next three games.
“Today, I can’t really buy into the excuses, the travel or the COVID stuff. Every team deals with it and it is what it is. We have to respond and have to get better.”Taylor Hall, following the Bruins 4-1 loss to Vegas Tuesday night.
On the recent trip through Canada, the Bruins got solid goaltending from Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman and they were a big reason why the trip was a success. Over the next two weeks, the Bruins will need more strong efforts from their duo between the pipes too.
Worst May Not Be Done
As we have seen with the Flames, there are more likely to be more positive tests in the Boston locker room. Cassidy missed the last road trip after testing positive and now it is affecting the team on the ice. It is a fluid situation for the Bruins right now, so much so that following their game at UBS Arena against the Islanders Thursday night, the Bruins are delaying their flight to Montreal until at least Friday.
This is not just a few teams dealing with a COVID outbreak, the Carolina Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild had their game Tuesday night postponed with an outbreak within the Hurricanes. With the recent events of the last few days, it’s more than likely that there will be more postponed games in the not-too-distant future, some maybe even involving the Bruins.
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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.