The Boston Bruins have officially clinched a playoff berth for the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite missing key players, the team earned a point against the St Louis Blues on Wednesday night after losing 2-1 in overtime. This was also the team’s 100th point of the season.
The team played strong against the Blues for about half the game before the Blues took over and physically asserted themselves, out-hitting the Bruins 46-24. The Bruins essentially got dominated starting from mid-way through the 2nd period until the final goal in OT.
There was, however, one key save from goalie Anton Khudobin with only a few ticks left on the clock that sent the game to overtime. This secured the playoff-clinching point the Bruins needed.
The Blues got a much needed two points out of this win and are affecting the current landscape of the Central Division, but that is for another time.
The performance is neither here nor there, however, as the Bruins find themselves back in the Stanley Cup playoffs and will look to transfer over their regular season success into the playoffs. It’s the first time the team has made consecutive playoff appearances since the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons (not that two seasons has been a long period of time).
It has been a testament to head coach Bruce Cassidy and his staff for taking a team that made a potentially flukey run at the end of last season and turned it into a contending team this year. This was done with an almost entirely new style of hockey seen under prior head coach Claude Julien, yet with a roster that still contained its star veterans.
What makes this team special is its resiliency. Yes, sure that may be a cliché thing to say, but this group of individuals just do not quit.
For the Red Sox fans reading this, remember in 2013 when the Sox had one comeback win after another and you never felt that they were ever out of a game? Well, this is the same feeling that a lot of Bruins fans have when watching this team play. Also, I know I definitely saw this somewhere else online, so I apologize to the Internet Gods for this one.
If you have thought the same way about this team, then what I am saying might sound repetitive, but it bears being repeated.
The most impressive factor about this team, however, is its ability to win despite not having a good chunk of its starters in the lineup. If this sounds familiar, it’s because I wrote about this earlier in the month.
At the beginning of the season, the Bruins were missing key players such as Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and David Backes and the team was struggling. When they got one player back from an injury, another would get injured and the starting roster was almost never on the ice at the same time. They went 6-6-4 in their first 16 games of the season and on November 16th, Cassidy benched the struggling, starting goalie Tuukka Rask in favor of backup Anton Khudobin.
The benching of Rask can most certainly be attributed to when the team started to turn a corner and started winning more games.
For context, the Bruins earned 16 points in 16 games before Rask was benched. In the 55 games played since then, the Bruins are tied for first in the league with 84 points (tied with the Nashville Predators). During that span, the Bruins lead the league in goals scored with 191 and are second in the league in goals against with 130.
This means the team averages 3.47 goals/game and 2.35 goals against/game in this 55 game span from mid-November to late-March. This is in comparison to the first 16 games of the season when they only averaged 2.75 goals/game and allowed 3.13 goals/game.
That is an astounding turnaround.
Ultimately, I believe that playing without the team’s top-dogs at the beginning of the season allowed young players such as Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, Anders Bjork, and departed Ryan Spooner to play more. Ths prepared the team for its more recent games when mainstays such as Bergeron and Marchand have been unavailable.
There are still 10 games left in the Boston Bruins’ season and there are high hopes and expectations surrounding them heading into the postseason. I predicted back in January that they would win the Stanley Cup and I am not shying away from that prediction (Reminder: follow me on Twitter @aaroncomak for Bruins and other sports-related things).
Fully healthy, the Bruins have the ability to take down Eastern Conference rivals such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, as well as Western Conference favorites such as the Nashville Predators and Vegas Golden Knights.
Over the next ten games, the team will make a push for the top seed in the Atlantic Division, while also trying to get the whole roster as healthy as possible. The final stretch before the playoffs has arrived and the Bruins’ quest for the Cup will start soon.
Come June, hopefully, Bruins fans are seeing this image another time:
(Source: Stupid Hockey)