How the Boston Bruins re-oriented themselves on the fly is one of the stories of the 2020-21 NHL season.
NHL Network’s Mike Kelly on Tuesday praised the “phenomenal balance” the arrivals of Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar and Mike Reilly helped Boston achieve in recent weeks. Hall, Lazar and Reilly joined the Bruins at the NHL trade deadline, and the team has gone 10-2 and clinched a Stanley Cup Playoffs berth with the trio in tow. Kelly highlights some Bruins analytics, which show how the newcomers allow head coach Bruce Cassidy to deploy his lines with devastating effect.
“(Bruins general manager) Don Sweeney made some really nice moves …, ” Kelly said. “But the addition of Taylor Hall, and Mike Reilly on the back end has been good in the games in which he’s played, but also Curtis Lazar has allowed the Bruins to have balance up and down their lineup. And that has been so critical for this team that was having trouble at five-on-five and having trouble getting depth scoring.
“So when you put Taylor Hall on the second line, and he’s been unbelievable with (linemates David) Krejci and (Craig) Smith, that allows you to not have to put (David) Pastrnak down there and not have to have Nick Ritchie in a top-six role. So now Ritchie can go to the third line, and Lazar can be on your fourth line, and you get phenomenal balance.
“If you look at pre-trade deadline and post-trade deadline at even strength, Boston was (ranked) 30th in goals, they were kind of middle-of-the-pack (18th) in expected goals, they weren’t finishing a lot. But if you look at post-trade deadline, they’re top-five and both. And when you see the goals are up there, and the expected goals are up there, and you know the results are there, you know the process is good. And that will lead to continued good results.
“So really key additions to the Bruins, now that this team’s scoring, and we know that they can defend, they’re as deadly as any team in that East Division going into the postseason.”
Kelly’s last line is bound to fire up Bruins fans, as the prospect of Boston hoisting the Stanley Cup is no mere pipe dream. The B’s are in third place in the Eastern Conference and have five remaining regular-season games, which could improve their seeding position if they win them.
Cassidy believes the Bruins are “playing the right way” during the stretch run of the regular season. Kelly’s dive into the analytics suggests there’s no obvious reason why that shouldn’t continue.