The Boston Bruins are officially in the second half of the 2021-22 season. Although they started the campaign a bit slowly, they have been able to step things up since the start of the new year. This is made clear by their current 26-14-3 record. Yet, the Bruins still have many more games to play this season, so they cannot get complacent. As we embark on the second half, there are some players fans should keep an extra close eye on.
For one reason or another, all four of the players that will be discussed are major focus points moving forward. The way their seasons have gone all vary, but there’s more to the equation than just that. In a way, they all have different responsibilities, and that’s what will ultimately make them so intriguing to watch from here. Alas, let’s dive into why.
Although the Bruins may have re-signed Tuukka Rask, Linus Ullmark is currently their starting goaltender. This is because the former is once again sidelined with a lower-body injury, and at this time, there is no clear answer to when he will return. He was once deemed as being “day-to-day” by head coach Bruce Cassidy, but he has since been ruled out until at least after the All-Star break. Therefore, the Bruins’ biggest free-agent signing should be manning the crease most frequently until he returns.
Although the team has called up Jeremy Swayman, time will tell how often he will play during his temporary stay with the team. After Ullmark’s lackluster performance on Sunday night against the Dallas Stars, the Bruins immediately ran with him again on Tuesday. He’s had a few bad games lately, too, so for the 28-year-old, he will be looking to be more consistent this second half. When on his game, he’s had moments of true excellence. By the end of the season, let’s see if he improves upon his current 2.64 goals-against average and .913 save percentage. When looking at how well he played with the Buffalo Sabres, it does seem possible,
Can David Pastrnak continue to score at this ridiculous pace from here? After an uncharacteristically cold start to the season, the 25-year-old has made up for it marvelously since the start of 2022. Over his last 15 games, he has scored a whopping 14 goals and recorded 22 total points. He’s looking more like the Rocket Richard trophy winner he was during the 2019-20 season, and that’s simply been fun to see.
Interestingly, this spark of offense from him occurred after being “demoted” to the second line. He’s formed excellent chemistry with Taylor Hall, which has led the 30-year-old to start producing far more frequently, too. For the Bruins to make a potential run this season, they need Pastrnak to keep this amazing string of play going. He’s truly among the best forwards in the sport when he’s as electrifying as this.
Nick Foligno has had a very challenging season in all aspects. On the ice, he hasn’t produced nearly as much as initially expected. In 26 games this season, the 34-year-old winger has one goal, six assists, and a minus-6 rating. This isn’t what the Bruins had in mind when they signed him to a two-year, $7.6 million contract during the offseason. With that, he’s dealt with numerous injury trouble and is currently sidelined yet again with an upper-body injury.
Although this wasn’t the way that Foligno had hoped his tenure with the Bruins would start, there is still plenty of time for him to turn it around during the second half of the year. Of course, his primary objective right now is to get healthy first. Offensively, one has to wonder if he can contribute more as the season goes on. Keep in mind, in 49 games between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs last season, he had seven goals and 20 total points.
With Jake DeBrusk requesting a trade, he’s a player worth watching for more reasons than one. Of course, fans will be paying close attention to whether or not the 2015 first-round pick has it granted and finally finds a new home. Yet, for a deal to go down, the 25-year-old will have to put together some strong games to help raise his trade value. Lately, he’s been doing just that, as he has two goals and three assists over his last seven contests. That is the best kind of production we’ve seen from him in a long time, so it would be wonderful for it to continue.
Fans should be hoping for his continued success. DeBrusk performing better would not only allow the team to receive more for him in a hypothetical trade but also help the Bruins win games in the meantime. Who knows? If the winger continues to play this well, they could even decide to keep him around for the remainder of the campaign. That’s another potential storyline to look out for, too.
Truthfully, one could make a case to keep an eye on each other player on the Bruins’ roster, too. However, when it comes to me personally, these four players stand out the most. At the end of the day, all the Bruins can hope for is that they continue to win games regularly from here.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHLTradeRumors.me, BBallRumors.com, BaseballRumors.me, FootballRumors.me and The Rat Trick.