For the last several years, the Boston Bruins have been a team to be reckoned with both in the Eastern Conference and the entire NHL.
In 2011, the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup since 1972. In 2013, the team came within one victory of winning their second Cup in three seasons, only to fall to the league’s best Chicago Blackhawks in a terrific six-game series.
Coming into this season, the Bruins were once again favored to be at the top of Atlantic Division and at or near the top of the Eastern Conference. With a roster filled with veterans, youngsters and Vezina Trophy-winning Tuukka Rask between the pipes, how can one not expect the team to be one of the best in both the East and the entire league?
However, the Bruins’ play has been anything but the best, and the club finds themselves in the second wild card position and just fourth in the Atlantic Division as of January 19.
There are a lot of factors as to why the Bruins find themselves in this position. One can point out injuries to key players in key roles and one can also point out that the rest of the teams in the division—namely the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, and even Detroit Red Wings—have just been flat-out better than the Bruins.
Those are two things that the Bruins really cannot control. Injuries happen all the time and when it comes to other teams in their division, they cannot cause them to falter so that they can get past them.
What the team can control, however, is what is really hurting them this season. And that’s lack of pop on offense.
Despite rostering the likes of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg on the roster, the Bruins still find themselves ranked 22nd in the league in average goals scored per game. To put things in perspective, Boston was third in the league last season in this same category.
Only one Bruin has more than 11 goals, and that’s Marchand. In all, the team has just four players with more than ten goals this season (Marchand, Bergeron, Eriksson, and Soderberg).
Last year, the Bruins thrived by pummeling the opposition with goals. This season, the Bruins are struggling to find the back of the net and that is something that is reflected in their position in the standings. The Bruins have also not been as good as they usually are when it comes to their play on the other side of the puck. While the team still finds themselves in the top 10 in goals against this season.
Over the past few seasons, the Bruins have been one of the best defensive teams in the league. With guys like Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, and Dennis Seidenberg anchoring the blue line, many figured the team to be much better than where they are at right now.
It is obvious that the team misses Johnny Boychuk, who is now the Islanders’ best defenseman. Boychuk was always rock solid and someone who could break up a lot of plays, throw a big hit, make smart decisions with the puck and contribute offense.
With Boychuk no longer on the team, no one from the Bruins defensive corps has really stepped up to be the team’s second best defensemen alongside Chara. Boychuk was a leader for that defensive corps and without him, the Bruins’ back line does not seem as strong as it used to be.
This team is also losing games that they should be winning. For example, the Bruins’ lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets (a non-playoff team right now) 3-1 on Saturday night, which ended their three-game winning streak.
Much like their recent loss to the lowly Blue Jackets, this team has also dropped games against the likes of Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, and Minnesota Wild this season. These are all teams that the Bruins should have beaten and instead, they found themselves going home with either one point or no points at all.
When the Bruins were one of the better teams in the league, they beat teams that they should beat and found ways to pick up points when they needed them the most. It appears that this Bruins team is struggling to do that.
If you’re a Boston fan or even a hockey fan in general, then the Bruins’ struggles are mind-boggling. This team still has a solid coach in Claude Julien and a roster that is more than capable of being one of the best teams in the league.
That has been nowhere near the case this season for the Bruins. It can be said that right now tgat the Bruins have no idea what kind of hockey team they are.