There’s no place like home for the holidays, and the Bruins are going back to Boston or wherever else they may go for the break a jolly bunch.
If there’s an NHL nice list, the B’s are on it as they are heading into the leaguewide Christmas break on a winning note after they were able to roll to a 6-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Monday night. Given all that has gone on this season, the Bruins have certainly earned that break.
The three-day hiatus also serves as nice benchmark on the season. Boston is right where it wants to be right now. The Bruins sit atop the Atlantic Division, and they’re trailing Pittsburgh for the conference’s top seed by just three points with two games in hand. That’s only the beginning of the reasons the Bruins can’t be happy when they put their feet up around the fire over the next few days.
The fact that the Bruins are where they are is impressive by itself, but it’s even more impressive given the injuries they have had. The good news other than the fact that they’ve survived? They’re starting to get a little bit healthier. Adam McQuaid returned Monday night, Dougie Hamilton (lower-body injury) just started skating again. Daniel Paille (concussion-like symptoms) is back on the ice as well, and Loui Eriksson is finally starting to feel better as he deals with a concussion. Getting those players back will only make this team better, obviously.
The Bruins’ power play is a legitimate strength. We’ve seen them do it for 37 games now, so it’s not a flash in the pan. In fact, the power play is getting even better. Boston tallied three power-play goals on Monday night, and the B’s are now fifth in the league in power-play success. That is just absurd, at least when you consider what they have done with the man-advantage in the Claude Julien era. Jesse Connolly of the New England Hockey Journal summed it up best with this tweet.
Ryan Spooner has done nothing but produce when wearing a B on his chest this season, whether it was in the preseason, his first callup or this most recent trip to Boston in the wake of Chris Kelly‘s injury. There are a lot of contractual issues with a number of players that make it a little difficult to keep Spooner up, but he has certainly earned that right. Spooner had three assists on Monday night, and he now has seven assists at the NHL level this year. He’s solidified the Bruins’ third line along with Carl Soderberg and Matt Fraser, and that line has been one of the team’s best in the last week or so. Sppooner is so vital right now because he gives Boston an element of speed they were sorely lacking before he was called up.
As good as Spooner has been, it’s paled in comparison to the play of Reilly Smith. It really is a testament to the Bruins’ scouting department and front office to have been able to get Smith in that big July trade with Dallas. Smith has been arguably the team’s best forward this year. He had a goal and two assists Monday against the Predators, and Smith is now tied for Milan Lucic for the team lead in goals and is second to only David Krejci for top spot in points. He’s also helped stabilize the second line and the second power-play unit with all of the injuries. He’s one of the biggest reasons there hasn’t been a drop-off in production with the injuries. There’s even been an uptick in production in Eriksson’s absence, and it’s becoming difficult to argue that Eriksson should get his second-line spot back when he’s healthy.
Tuukka Rask has been the backbone of the hockey club as one of the best goalies in the NHL. That’s pretty simple.