The New England Patriots are Super Bowl LI champions, and with football season winding down for a bit, it’s time to turn to the Boston Bruins and their quest for a berth in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Here’s what you need to know about the Bruins as they get ready for the playoff push.
The Bruins find themselves out of a playoff spot entering Wednesday. They trail the Toronto Maple Leafs by two points for third place in the Atlantic Division, and Toronto also has three games in hand on Boston. The fifth-place Florida Panthers are just two points behind the Bruins, and the rest of the division is four points behind. All four of those teams have played fewer games than Boston, so the Bruins have fewer opportunities than their competition to pick up points as the playoff race heats up
In the wild card race, the B’s are one point behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the second wild-card spot and 11 points behind the New York Rangers for the first wild-card berth.
The Bruins must improve their play at TD Garden to have a strong chance of returning to the playoffs. They own a disappointing 12-13-0 record on home ice.
The Bruins fired head coach Claude Julien on Tuesday and named assistant Bruce Cassidy the interim bench boss. Julien was the winningest coach in team history with 419 victories, but with the B’s struggling and facing a possible three-year playoff drought, the front office decided to make a change. Cassidy was the Providence Bruins head coach for five seasons before joining Julien’s staff this campaign, so he’s already familiar with a lot of the players. The transition should be pretty quick.
WHO’S HOT, WHO’S NOT
Brad Marchand was the league’s No. 2 star in January after tallying 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in the month. He’s carried that success into February with four points (two goals, two assists) in two games.
David Backes, the team’s prized free-agency acquisition last summer, is in a 12-game goalless drought with only one assist in that span. The B’s need much more offense from him because the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line can’t be asked to shoulder most of the scoring burden.
The Bruins have fantastic puck possession stats — they rank No. 1 with a 55.9 Corsi For percentage during 5-on-5 play. Possessing the puck is great, but you need to turn that into quality shot attempts, which the Bruins have failed to accomplish. Just 33 percent of their shots come from the slot, and that ranks 25th. So, it’s not surprising the Bruins’ 8.1 shooting percentage is the fourth-lowest rate in the league. Boston is 21st in goals scored per game as a result, and that’s not going to cut it when you factor in a young defense and inconsistent goaltending.
The B’s begin a three-game homestand Thursday against the Pacific Division-leading San Jose Sharks. Then they host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday and the rival Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.
After that, the Bruins’ next four games all are on the road, including a swing through California to play very talented Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings squads, in addition to a matchup with the high-powered Dallas Stars.
The Bruins’ playoff chances will be much clearer when this road trip ends Feb. 26, which should give general manager Don Sweeney a good idea of what kind of moves need to be made before the March 1 trade deadline.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
Powered by WordPress.com VIP