Bruins Not Stanley Cup Contenders But Can Make Noise In Wide-Open East

A popular narrative surrounding the Boston Bruins this season is that they’ve beaten up on bad teams but struggled when faced with worthy competition. But have they really?

Yes, it’s true that Western Conference powers largely have had their way with the B’s this season. Before Saturday’s 7-3 blowout of the Dallas Stars, Boston had yet to win in seven games against the top seven seeds in the West.

Within their own conference, however, the Bruins have not experienced the same issues.

Boston, which entered Tuesday in a de facto tie for second place in the Atlantic Division even after Monday’s lackluster showing against the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets, has gone 10-5-0 this season against the seven other teams currently holding playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Take out two losses to the Washington Capitals — far and away the East’s best team — and that record improves to 10-3-0.

Against playoff teams within their own division, the Bruins are 5-2-0 and have beaten the first-place Florida Panthers twice. One of their two losses was the wonky 6-5 result last weekend in Detroit, and the other — a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning — came in the first week of the regular season.

Here’s the point: While the Bruins, as they’re currently constructed, do not look like a Stanley Cup contender, there’s no reason why they can’t make a legitimate run in the Eastern Conference playoffs, especially if they’re able to avoid the Capitals in the early rounds. The East this season is wide-open and, frankly, littered with teams that simply aren’t all that good.

And while Bostonians typically take a “championship or bust” approach to their sports teams, a playoff run, however brief, would be a positive step in this young Bruins team’s development. Seven players on Boston’s current roster have never played in a postseason game, and that’s not even counting guys like Frank Vatrano and Colin Miller who currently are plying their trade in Providence.

With the NHL trade deadline less than a week away, the Bruins should keep this in mind. Unless a team bowls them over with a package of draft picks and/or prospects, icing a competitive lineup and making a postseason push would be far more beneficial than taking a strictly forward-thinking “play the young guys” approach and settling for another playoff no-show.

“I think right now, with the way the standings are, everyone’s very close,” winger Brad Marchand said before Monday’s 6-4 loss to Columbus. “And if we continue to play good hockey and come together and play well, then we have an opportunity to stay in a playoff spot. We all want to contend. We all think that, and we all believe in our team in here. But obviously, whatever the management does, that’s their job, and we’re not going to worry about that. We’re just going to come prepared to play every night.”

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand

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