When recently acquired Rick Nash made his debut for the Boston Bruins, they got spanked by the lowly Buffalo Sabres 4-1.
The big loss after the game, however, was that the team learned their star forward Patrice Bergeron would miss a minimum of two weeks with a foot fracture. Losing Bergeron is obviously as big a blow as they come seeing as he’s the top center, plays during both power-plays and penalty-kills, and provides leadership to the entire roster.
Losing arguably a team’s most valuable player would normally lead to a team’s despair, however, this team responded by thrashing the Pittsburgh Penguins in an 8-4 shootout (a shootout as in a high scoring game, not an actual hockey shootout). They then went on to win a thrilling come-from-behind game against the Montreal Canadiens after trailing for almost 58 minutes of regulation.
Almost a week after the Bergeron injury, the Bruins then lost rookie stud-defenseman Charlie McAvoy for at least four weeks due to an MCL sprain in his left leg suffered against the Detroit Red Wings this past Tuesday.
The Bruins went on to win this game in 6-5 in overtime. They then defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 Thursday with a last-minute regulation goal from Brad Marchand.
(Source: NBC Sports)
Two of the Bruins top defensive players are now not in the lineup for the near future. On top of this, the team will not have David Backes for the home-away series against the Chicago Blackhawks this weekend. The team is now leaning more on young guys to step up as well as rely on newly acquired assets such as Rick Nash, Nick Holden, Tommy Wingels, and Brian Gionta.
The team is also seeing elevated play over the past five games from Bergeron’s temporary replacement Riley Nash (3 G, 4 A), David Pastrnak (1 G, 7 A), Torey Krug (3 G, 6 A), and Brad Marchand (5 G, 4 A). Marchand, in particular, has been clutch over the past week or so as he has scored the game-winning goal in the last three games, two of which came in OT.
This Bruins team is getting the job done despite not having some of its top contributors in the lineup. This team is resilient every time they play despite the players rolled out a nightly basis.
That’s not to say this team is missing two of its top players in Bergeron and McAvoy. The Bruins have suffered without the four-time Selke Trophy winner in the lineup. In the nine games that Bergeron has not played this season, the team is allowing an average of almost a goal and a half more per game (2.32 GA/G w/Bergeron playing vs 3.67 GA w/out Bergeron playing). Granted, nine games is somewhat of a small sample size, but the numbers are still glaring nonetheless.
In the six games McAvoy has not played in this season, the numbers are actually fairly identical to when he’s been in the lineup (196 GF – 148 GA w/McAvoy & 19 GF – 15 GA w/out McAvoy).
(Source: Causeway Crowd)
The last two games the Bruins played were without both Bergeron and McAvoy the team scored nine times and gave up seven goals.
The main point with all of these statistics is that the Bruins are a better defensive team with Bergeron and McAvoy in the lineup, while they have actually either done as good or even better from an offensive standpoint without them.
In a way, the Bruins are taking the New England Patriots’ “next man up” mentality as even though they are not as defensively sound as they are with Bergeron and McAvoy in the lineup, they are finding ways to win and wins are sometimes all that matters.
Throughout the course of the season, I don’t think many players or fans have felt the team is ever out of a game on many nights. There have only been a handful of games recently that have been out of reach for the Bruins. The team has not looked “bad” since the first month or so of the season and have not looked back since.
I stand by my earlier prediction that this team has the potential to win the Stanley Cup. You can read the reasoning behind this here. Every regular season win is reassuring me of my faith in this team and I cannot wait for this team to prove itself come the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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