The NHL has reached the All-Star Break and the Boston Bruins are still in first place in the league, sitting at a record of 39-7-5 through 51 games. They already have 83 points, seven points ahead of the Carolina Hurricanes who are second in the league. They have had one of the best seasons in the history of the team, one very few saw coming this past summer.
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The second half of the season always moves very quickly after the All-Star Break. The trade deadline is only a few weeks away, and major moves have already begun to take place. After that, it’s a sprint to the postseason in April. The Bruins are almost guaranteed to make an appearance in the 2023 Playoffs, but there are still interesting things that could take place before then. Here are a few predictions for the rest of the season.
Pastrnak Finishes With Over 100 Points
This is certainly an easy prediction to make. David Pastrnak is currently sitting third in points in the entire NHL, behind only Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He has 72 points in 51 games, including 38 goals. His previous season high was 95 points in 70 games back in the 2019-20 season. Without the COVID-19 pause, he certainly would have reached over the 100-point mark for the first time.
As it is, Pastrnak has yet to hit over 100 points in a season. If he reaches it, as I predict he will, then it’ll be the first time in his career to reach that mark and join the elite club of NHL players to do so. Barring injury, Pastrnak should have no trouble reaching that mark. He has played absolutely out of his mind this season. The move to play him with David Krejci and Pavel Zacha has been one of the best decisions Jim Montgomery has made in his first year as head coach.
As everyone and their mother knows, Pastrnak is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Somehow this season, he has taken his game to an even higher level, which goes beyond just the incredible amount of points that are currently next to his name on the stats sheet. He has been a game-changer, solidifying his spot as one of the elite players in the league.
Bruins Bring in a Defenseman at Trade Deadline
While the Bruins have had an incredible season, it hasn’t been perfect (nothing can be). There is always room for improvement and areas that need bolstering for a deep playoff run. With the chemistry of the current offensive lines and Jake DeBrusk coming back from injury soon, the team may want to avoid spending a lot for a forward. A blueliner on the other hand could certainly provide some depth and assistance.
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The question is whether or not the Bruins have the assets to really bring someone in. They don’t have a lot of high-end prospects, and any first-round pick they have this season is most likely going to be late in the round. Still, reports are coming out that they are interested in a left shot defenseman and have checked in on Arizona Coyotes star Jakob Chychrun, a name they’ve been linked to in the past few seasons. While he would certainly be an upgrade over players on the current roster, the team is going to struggle to meet any asking price for him.
That being said, general manager Don Sweeney has managed to hit it out of the park during the last two trade deadlines without giving up major assets. There is plenty to find fault in Sweeney’s tenure in Boston so far, but gaining Taylor Hall without losing a first-round pick is certainly an incredible move that has more than paid off. With his deadline history, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pull something off and bring in a defenseman. It may not be Chychrun, but it will certainly be someone interesting.
Race to First with Carolina
In the last several years, a rivalry has begun between the Bruins and Hurricanes that was further developed in last season’s playoffs when Carolina bounced Boston in the first round. So far this season, the two teams have faced each other twice. The Bruins won the first overtime matchup back in November while the Hurricanes recently blew them out in a 4-1 victory. The teams are currently one and two in the league in terms of points and I predict that the battle will remain between them for the first-place spot until the end of the season.
While finishing first overall and winning the Presidents’ Trophy does not guarantee that a team will do well in the playoffs, it does guarantee home-ice advantage throughout. Given how well the Bruins have played at home this year, they are going to want that advantage. Carolina is a tough opponent and has an underrated home-ice atmosphere and a loud fan base.
I do predict that the Bruins will come out with the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, but it is going to be a tighter race than it may have seemed a few weeks ago. The final matchup between the two teams will take place on March 26 in Raleigh. It’s a game to circle on the calendar as it may turn out to be a preview of the Eastern Conference Final.
Get Back on Track
The Bruins hit one of their roughest patches of the season in the week leading up to the All-Star Break. They lost three games in a row, the first time they have lost multiple games in a row in 2022-23, and put together some pretty bad periods of hockey. They have definitely been missing DeBrusk on offense and have had some holes come to light on defense.
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In the end, though, it’s good for them to face some adversity now rather than have nothing until they reach the playoffs. They still have the best record in the league, one of the best goalie tandems, and elite talent. If Sweeney can hit another home run at the trade deadline, this team could continue to be just as dangerous in the second half of the season and postseason as they were in the first half.