The NHL trade deadline is just over 48 hours away and the Boston Bruins played their final game before the 3 o’clock deadline on Monday. Boston withstood a third-period rally from the Winnipeg Jets to escape with a 4-2 victory Friday night on the strength of a Taylor Hall power play goal late in the final period.
Following the game, all the attention will now turn toward the trade deadline. What does Bruins general manager Don Sweeney do to improve his team’s roster for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs? We will find out soon enough, but before we can get those answers, here are three takeaways from the Black and Gold’s 38th win of the season.
DeBrusk Impresses in Final Game Before Trade Deadline
It was revealed in late November that Jake DeBrusk requested a trade through his agent. However, during his media session Friday afternoon, coach Bruce Cassidy said that the request was made last summer, but Sweeney had yet to fulfill the request. With the trade deadline two days away, it’s now or never for Sweeney. There have been a couple of reasons as to why Sweeney has yet to move the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft. DeBrusk has been needed for left wing depth as Brad Marchand has been suspended twice for a total of nine games since late November and Sweeney has not got the deal that he feels is a fair deal for a player with DeBrusk’s talent.
Since being moved up to the first line with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on Feb. 24, DeBrusk has played some of his best hockey in the last two seasons with six goals and eight points in 12 games. Against the Jets, DeBrusk assisted on Marchand’s second period goal when he controlled an airborne pass from Marchand on a 2-on-1, and slid the puck back to Marchand who tapped the puck into an open net.
If this was the 25-year-old’s final game with the Black and Gold, he finished with an assist on the top line with Marchand and Jack Studnicka, who was filling in for the injured Bergeron. The time for Sweeney to sell is now if he is going to. There is a scenario where he holds onto DeBrusk for the rest of the season and risks losing him in the offseason when he becomes a restricted free agent. We will find out the final decision in the next two-plus days.
Studnicka Played Well in Place of Bergeron on the Top Line
Following the Bruins 2-1 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night, Bergeron returned back to Boston because a previous injury re-emerged and there was a risk of infection. The Bruins called Studnicka up from the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL) Wednesday, but he was not able to make it in time to Minnesota for the game against the Wild that night as he had just made it to Charlotte, North Carolina with his Providence teammates for their game Thursday night against the Charlotte Checkers.
Studnicka joined his Boston teammates on the ice Friday for their skate in Winnipeg ahead of the game against the Jets, and he found himself centering Marchand and DeBrusk on the first-line. The 23-year-old, who was selected 53rd overall in the 2017 Entry Draft, had a good all-around game, which included picking up a secondary assist on Marchand’s goal in the second period when his pass allowed Marchand and DeBrusk to break in on a 2-on-1 with a nice cross-ice pass. He was solid on faceoffs, played in all situations, was good on the backcheck, and played a simple game. Overall, it was his best all-around game than in the previous 10 this season.
“I thought he was good. He got hit a couple times, bounced back,” Cassidy said of Studnicka, who played 13:28 with an assist and a shot on goal. “He started the breakout on March’s goal by being in the right spot. He’s underneath. He’s not cheating and leaving the zone early. Some of his habits before, we would have had to remind him about that. Clearly, he’s corrected that down in Providence and as a result is in the good spot, whether we win the puck back or not.”
Now the question must be asked, was this move made to give Studnicka his chance to show what he can do, or was it a move to showcase him ahead of Monday’s trade deadline with the hopes a team would include him in a deal? Time will tell.
Bruins Need Another Center by Monday
With Bergeron out for an unknown amount of time, the need for another center by the trade deadline is becoming more evident by the day. Friday night, Erik Haula started the game where he has been since Jan. 1, between Taylor Hall and David Pastrnak. The trio has formed a nice connection, but against Winnipeg, Cassidy was sending the veteran Haula a message.
Haula was dropped to the fourth-line between Curtis Lazar and Nick Foligno, while Nosek moved up to the second line between Hall and Pastrnak in the second period. Haula compounded the situation midway through the middle period by taking a penalty for goalie interference and then took a third-period tripping penalty, but his teammates killed both penalties.
It is debatable what the Bruins’ top priority is by Monday’s deadline. The case could be made that a left-shot defenseman should be the priority, or a top-six right wing, especially if DeBrusk is moved, but if there is one thing that has stood in the last two games is that a center is needed and needed badly. Whether that is Andrew Copp of the Jets or anyone else, center depth would be a big addition to the roster.
The Bruins are off until Monday night when they travel to the Bell Centre for their first game against the Montreal Canadiens in Canada in over two seasons. By the time the puck is dropped just after 7 o’clock, the trade deadline will have passed four hours earlier and all of the questions that Sweeney has been facing will be answered.
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.