Nov 21, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins center Brad Marchand (63) celebrates his second period goal with center Patrice Bergeron (37) and right wing David Pastrnak (88) during a NHL game at the TD Garden. Credit: Brian Fluharty
For the fifth consecutive season, the Boston Bruins are heading to the playoffs. Although this particular year was a slight step backwards compared to the 2019-20 Presidents’ Trophy-winning campaign, the B’s accomplished a lot in 2021.
To kick things off, Boston had three 20-goal scorers on the roster. To no one’s surprise, that trio is the B’s top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak. Despite the top-three goal scorers on the team rounding out the number one line, that does not necessarily mean that the scoring was unbalanced throughout the year.
With that being said, the second notable occurrence for this team was the emergence of a true second line. David Krejci had been left in limbo by the organization year after year when it came to providing him with productive linemates. Well, that cannot be said anymore.
With Craig Smith coming over from the Nashville Predators in the offseason and the acquisition of Taylor Hall from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline, these three have been a force. From April 13 through the end of the regular season, the B’s revamped second line combined for 19 goals and 26 assists.
Being able to pack an offensive punch with the top-two lines will be crucial in the playoffs, and the Bruins certainly will have that aspect covered.
We also witnessed the maturation of Trent Frederic as a full-time winger in the National Hockey League. More importantly, he became a fan favorite among the Black and Gold faithful.
An argument can be made that the latter is more impressive.
The Bruins were in desperate need of some grit and toughness on the roster this season, and Frederic took initiative. Not only is he among one of the leaders on the team in hits, but he also has the capability of providing a scoring touch when called upon. Frederic was meant to be a Bruin. The fans have noticed.
On the back end, B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy has seemingly identified the top-six defensemen heading into the postseason. Mike Reilly has been a huge surprise for the team when he came over from the Ottawa Senators at the trade deadline. He has been the puck-moving blue liner on the left side that the team was seeking and has looked great matched up with Brandon Carlo. The ex-Boston University tandem of Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk will see the high-powered lines from the opposition this postseason. With Jeremy Lauzon securing a role on the third pair with Kevan Miller, the Bruins should feel confident with the horses on the back end.
Lastly, the goaltender of the future has arrived.
When Tuukka Rask (back injury) and Jaroslav Halak (COVID protocol) were unable to play, Dan Vladar and Jeremy Swayman got the opportunity to prove themselves. Swayman really impressed, to the point where he might actually be the number two netminder behind Rask in the playoffs. In 10 games, Swayman posted a 7-3-0 record with a 1.50 goals against average and .945 save percentage. The 22-year-old has shown confidence way beyond his age, but he is also having fun while out on the ice. The organization has a great problem on its hands when it comes to the future of the goaltending position.
Not a bad season for the Bruins in 2021, right? The plethora of items checked off the metaphorical “list” is important for a team who wants to make a deep Stanley Cup playoff run. With the Bruins finishing third in the East Division after accumulating a 33-16-7 record and 73 points, their first-round fate has been determined: the Washington Capitals.
The Bruins put up a 4-2-2 record against the Capitals during the season series. Both Boston and Washington rank in the NHL’s Top 10 for power play percentage and penalty kill percentage. The special teams could very well cancel each other out, so it could come down to five-on-five play and elite goaltending.
Despite the high-end skill on both sides, this series is going to be remembered for the physical aspect of the game. The history between the B’s and Caps—particularly Tom Wilson—has been well documented. Normally, playoff hockey is meant for teams to have their depth tested. This series is going to be no different.
The Bruins are playing some of their best hockey all year long right now, but the Capitals have had success in these situations before. If both teams are fully healthy and clicking on all cylinders, it is tough to pick against the Capitals. Expect this series to go the distance.
Game 1 will take place this Saturday night in D.C.