The Boston Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the NHL as the March 1 trade deadline approaches.
Boston is 6-1-0 under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy and occupies third place in the Atlantic Division entering Monday’s slate of games. Even with the improved play, the B’s still could make a few moves to increase the likelihood of their playoff drought ending.
Here are the Bruins’ three biggest needs as they prepare for the trade deadline.
The Bruins have been an inconsistent scoring team for much of the season. Some of that was due to an uncharacteristically low shooting percentage for many of their best players, most notably Patrice Bergeron. The team as a whole and Bergeron, in particular, has turned it around of late, even before Claude Julien was fired.
The Bruins have scored four or more goals in nine of their last 12 games, and their power play has scored in 10 of the last 12 games (13 goals overall in that span). Even though the offense is red-hot, it still would be wise of the B’s to add a veteran winger who could fill a spot on any of the top three lines.
Arizona Coyotes right winger Radim Vrbata would be a nice addition for Boston. The veteran forward has tallied 46 points (15 goals, 31 assists) in 61 games. David Pastrnak has been the Bruins’ only right winger who’s provided consistent scoring production in 2016-17. It’s a position that could use an upgrade for the late stages of the playoff race.
Most teams would love to acquire a top-four defenseman, but these players rarely are made available for trade, and when they are available, the cost often is way too high.
If there’s a good deal to make, the Bruins should pounce, but they do have several talented young blueliners in the prospect pool (most notably Charlie McAvoy) ready to make an impact over the next few seasons.
The more likely move is for a depth defenseman, someone who can provide reliable minutes, contribute on special teams and ignite the transition game with quick exits out of the defensive zone. Injuries also could provide challenges for Cassidy down the stretch, so it never hurts to stockpile as much blue-line depth as possible.
Backup goaltending arguably has been the Bruins’ most glaring weakness this season. The B’s have dropped valuable points because of lackluster performances from backup goalies, and starter Tuukka Rask also has been forced to play in 49 games (fifth-most in the league).
Here’s a look at the play of Boston’s three backup goaltenders this season.
Malcolm Subban: 0-1-0, 5.88 GAA, .813 SV%
Zane McIntyre: 0-4-1, 3.97 GAA, .858 SV%
Anton Khudobin: 3-5-1, 2.84 GAA, .896 SV%
Khudobin is the current backup, and he gave a strong performance Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings by making 28 saves on 29 shots in a 4-1 win. Still, he’s been underwhelming throughout the campaign, and if there’s an upgrade on the market, the Bruins would be smart to at least pursue it.
They cannot afford to have Rask fatigued late in the playoff race and/or Round 1 of the playoffs because he played too many games due to poor backup goaltending.
Thumbnail photo via Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Feb 26, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Boston Bruins center David Backes (42) and left wing Brad Marchand (63) and defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) and defenseman Brandon Carlo (25) celebrates a goal against the Dallas Stars during the third period at the American Airlines Center. The Bruins defeat the Stars 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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