The Boston Bruins started the season blazing hot, with a record of 20-3-5, good enough to be neck and neck for first in the NHL with the ridiculously good Washington Capitals. It looked like the Bruins were arguably the best team in hockey. They were steamrolling every team in the league, top, and bottom of the standings.
However, since December 5th, the Bruins are a staggering 4-5-6, enough to watch their 15 point lead in the division shrivel down to only six points. As our good friend, Nick Germano pointed out, the Bruins are also 3-1-5 against non-playoff teams and only *2-4-1* against playoff teams, clearly indicating a problem with the team. Even worse? Before last nights game in Nashville, the Bruins had 8 games with 2 goals or less and were yet to score an even-strength goal in 2020.
Riding the other-worldly performance, night in and night out, by the top line, the Bruins found much success early in the season. However, Pastrnak would never have been able to sustain an 82 goal pace, and the top line was bound to come back down to earth – at least just a little. As the top line experienced injury and a small dose of reality, the holes in the roster have become very clear. After all, it’s easy to defend a team when they have 1 single line to attack with, especially when they no longer are scoring 3 goals a game together.
What’s the diagnosis?
At this point, it is clear the Bruins need a 2nd line right winger, a void that has existed since, yup you guessed it, Jarome Iginla left in the summer of 2014 – almost SIX years ago. And at this point, due to the 2nd line having so many issues, the 3rd line is struggling as well. The 3rd line, made up of Bjork-Coyle-Heinen, has proven they can play quality hockey together, emphasis on *together* but with all 3 of them getting yanked up to play wing on the 2nd line, they haven’t been able actually to play together, so this 2nd line issue is becoming contagious.
Clearly, Don Sweeney needs to go out and get a 2RW, something I have beaten to death on Twitter, much like many other fans out there. Names like Chris Kreider (NYR), Tyler Toffoli (LAK), and Jason Zucker (MIN) have floated around the trade rumor mill, all of which have been connected to Boston. Having seen Sweeney pull the trigger on both Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson last year. I think it is clear Sweeney understands this team needs an external addition to top last seasons playoff run.
A lack of energy gumming up the works
Obviously, the Bruins need a 2RW solution and would like to bring consistency and balance back to the offensive attack. However, there are too many guys who play like their roster spot is guaranteed. Sean Kuraly, Jake DeBrusk, and, yes, Danton Heinen come to mind. I know I am a big defender of Heinen, but for the last month, he has looked like he has only made it through games by wearing a life vest and floating through most shifts. But worst of all, I still scratch my head when I see the name “Brett Ritchie” in the lineup.
Although Ritchie has a big frame, he is just that – a big frame. He doesn’t play a physical enough brand of hockey and gives you virtually nothing in all other facets of the game as well. Guys like Karson Kuhlman and Zach Senyshyn have played energetic and overall solid hockey in Providence since their injury. They don’t seem to have missed a beat. Those are two guys who can come in and inject some energetic minutes into the Bruins game. And by sitting Kuraly, DeBrusk, and Heinen for them, you also send them a message that they no longer can be passengers.
A combination of Sweeney adding a legit 2nd line right winger and Cassidy benching the passengers and injecting some energy should get this team back on track. With the trade deadline coming up in less than 2 months (February 24th), the seat gets warmer and warmer for Sweeney by the day. I would expect Sweeney to go out and acquire a player to fill the 2RW void before the deadline, and I hope Cassidy sends a message to the floaters.
If the Bruins can find a way to add secondary scoring behind the best line in hockey, they’ll earn themselves another quality shot at winning the Stanley Cup in the spring.