With 70 games down, the real Boston Bruins are starting to show up.
That’s an assumption-based statement if you haven’t already guessed. Still, it’s impressive that a team that many predicted to fall right outside the playoff picture, or stumble in, is holding onto first place in the Atlantic Division with 12 games to go.
Of course, no one really knows what the Bruins are capable of or if the team has the ability to withstand a postseason with key personnel not necessarily experienced for it.
Consider this: only eight players on the current roster dressed for the Bruins’ last playoff game on May 14, 2014. While Adam McQuaid and Dennis Seidenberg were on the team, both were injured and did not play. Seven Bruins on the active roster, including Ryan Spooner, Brett Connolly, and David Pastrnak, have zero playoff experience in the NHL. The good news is that newcomers Matt Beleskey and Lee Stempniak have 62 games of playoff experience between them.
Look, no one is seriously saying that the Bruins are legitimate contenders to win the Stanley Cup. There are still flaws and there will be more challenges as the team moves down the stretch. But remove the Washington Capitals from an otherwise just okay Eastern Conference, and the field becomes wide open.
The Bruins are playing as good, if not better, than any of them. Does that make the Bruins serious contenders in the East? Think it might.
Aside from Washington, the Bruins biggest challenge in the Eastern Conference is the Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s possible that, as a first round match-up is concerned, the Bruins could be looking at a series with the Lightning, Florida Panthers, or if their hold on the Atlantic Division stays, the first wildcard team (which, will likely be one of Detroit, Pittsburgh, or maybe Philadelphia.)
Take away Tampa from the first round opponents, and you should like any of those match-ups. The Bruins are 2-1 against the Red Wings so far, and 3-0 against the Panthers and Penguins, with one game left to play against Florida.
The Bruins have been pretty good against the rest of the Eastern Conference, too. Though their below average home record has rightfully gotten plenty of attention, the Bruins are 12-7-4 at home against the East. On the road? 17-6-1.
For now, the Bruins are a fun team to watch because they’re playing an anything can happen style of hockey. That’s not always a good thing but with the Bruins being 7-1-2 in their last 10 games, well, why not, right?
This is a team that, despite getting rebuilt on the fly, is going for it. That’s exciting to watch.
The Bruins are in a position where they’re scoring goals and getting strong goaltending when they need it most. Tuukka Rask has been putting up far better numbers lately with the same, sort of porous defense in front of him. In his last ten games, Rask is 7-1-2 with a .931 save percentage. During that span, Rask made 40 or more saves on three separate occasions.
For now, though, the Bruins will take their impressive streak on the road into the Bermuda Triangle of the Western Conference with games against the San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks. What happens there could dictate even further the direction this team will head into as the playoffs approach.
Of course, they’d have to get out of the Eastern Conference first. With the way they’ve been playing lately, why couldn’t they?
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Mike Miccoli covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers and has been a credentialed member of the media for all Bruins’ home games for the past five years. As a former player, coach and official, Miccoli has been around the game of hockey since the age of three. Along with his work on THW, Miccoli has also been published in the New England Hockey Journal, Improper Bostonian magazine and on BostInno.