The week-long All-Star break for the Boston Bruins fell at a rather perfect time for the club – 51 games into the 82 game season; just a tad over half-way.
For the players, this break means a time for relaxation; whether that means spending time with family, vacationing off to exotic places, or using the time to nurse injuries.
For the coaches, however, it is a time to reflect on where the team sits. Head coach Bruce Cassidy put it perfectly when he was asked about the state of the team at the start of the break.
“I think we are in a solid position,” said Cassidy. “I don’t think anything has been given to us. I do believe there’s room for growth on that 60 minute effort from start to finish. Health-wise we are trending well. Now, we got a couple of young guys that we feel is pushing the group. That part I like about the team – that we have some depth.”
Coming out of the All-Star break, the Bruins sit atop the Atlantic Division with 70 points as their record stands 29-10-12. They are also currently tied for second in the league with the St. Louis Blues, as the Washington Capitals hold the top spot with 73 points.
But let’s break down what Cassidy said.
“We are in a solid position”.
That alone speaks for itself, as Cassidy literally the team is in a solid position when it comes to where they stand just over half-way into the season. When looking at the rest of the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are five points behind the Bruins, while the Florida Panthers are nine points behind.
“I don’t think anything’s been given to us”.
What Cassidy means by this could relate to anything regarding the game. However, one particular area pops up at almost an instant – the coach’s challenge. Two particular scenarios to bring up are the game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Nov. 10, and the game against the Montreal Canadians on Nov. 5.
For those unfamiliar with what happened on Nov. 5, the Bruins appeared to have taken the lead in the third period, as Charlie Coyle scored a clutch goal to put Boston up 5-4. However, Montreal challenged the goal for offside and the goal was taken back. The Bruins ended up losing to the Canadians 5-4 as a result.
The other game against the Flyers, was a different story. The Bruins were down 2-0 when in the middle of the second period it appeared Par Lindholm scored to cut Philadelphia’s lead in half 2-1. However, the Situation Room thought different. The goal was called back due to an apparent goaltender interference initiated by either Conor Clifton or Zach Senyshen, therefore the puck went across the goal as a result.
“Room for growth on that 60-minute effort”.
The Bruins have lost in extra hockey twelve different times so far this season; five of those losses coming straight in overtime, and seven losses coming from the shootout. There was even an instance where Boston saw either both overtime and a shootout three straight games in a row and losing all three.
Their twelve overtime losses are first in the league in such a category; the Ottawa Senators coming in second with nine.
While grabbing the point is great and all, what is worrisome is the points that have been left on the table towards the end of the season. The team is aware of their need to close-out the games in which they have the lead late into the final period of play. And if the game happens to go into overtime, they need to find a way to win. The shootout? Well, that’s just another area of the game where they need to get better. And, Cassidy has made note of the fact that 1v1, his team is lacking. He’s incorporated such scenarios towards the end of his practices, and hopefully it pays off.
“Health-wise, we are trending well”.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask sustained a concussion on Jan. 14 against the Columbus Blue Jackets when a Columbus player skated through the crease and punched Rask on the right side of the head. Rask, who was supposed to make an appearance at the All Star Game, has fully recovered and is expected to be back in net this weekend.
Recently, injuries have not been an issue for Boston. However, they a total man-games lost of 207 on the season so far. Detroit, Columbus, Winnipeg, and Pittsburgh are relatively close to Boston as all four have over 200 man-games lost due to injured players as well.
But as Cassidy said, the Bruins are trending in the right direction. As of right now, Conor Clifton and Kevan Miller remain the only players who are injured.
“We got a couple of young guys that we feel is pushing the group”.
Prior to the game against the Vegas Golden Knights, forward Anton Blidh was called up and replaced Joakim Nordstrom on the fourth line. Sean Kuraly centered the line that consisted of Blidh, Kuraly, and Wagner. While the move is probably temporary, the move pushes full-time roster players to play better.
The same can be said for the situation with Jake DeBrusk as of right now. DeBrusk, usually on a line with David Krejci, has been playing on the third with Coyle and Bjork. Danton Heinen has stepped into the left-wing role since then. Whether or this move is temporary, it is clear that the Bruins do have the depth in terms of what Cassidy has been talking about when it comes to being able to shuffle around the younger players.
Boston has a bit of a cushion in the standings, and if they can figure out a way to play the full 60 minutes to the very end, not not give up last-minute goals, and continue to push one another, then the future for the Bruins looks bright.