Bean: If you think the Bruins are 'choking,' you're missing the point

Bean: If you think the Bruins are 'choking,' you're missing the point

If you think the Bruins are choking by turning in a stretch that’s brought their record to 12-7-0 under Bruce Cassidy, it means you believe that they’re the quality of team that should win at the pace they were on prior to the slump. That 12-3-0 pace would be 131 points over an 82-game season, making them the second-greatest team of all time, behind the 1976-77 Canadiens and neck-and-neck with the 1995-96 Red Wings.  

Get ready, because this take might knock you over: I do not believe the 2016-17 Bruins are the second-greatest team of all time. 

In fact, they’re not the second-greatest team in the NHL this season. Or their conference, or their division, for that matter. What they are is maybe the sixth, seventh or eighth-best team in the Eastern Conference. They’re probably good enough to make the playoffs. They’re not so good that their place in the postseason should be assumed. 

“But they were in the playoffs before this slump!” you cry. “They were good enough.”

Sure, but they were in the playoffs as part of an unsustainable run. Pretty good teams can go on good runs, just like pretty good teams can go on bad runs. The teams that only go on good runs aren’t pretty good; they’re really good, great, etc. Expectations of a great team are being placed on a pretty good team. It’s every bit as much of a misunderstanding on your part as it is a “choke” on theirs. 

My Big Dumb Friend Mike calls this reason-based view nerdy. Fine, then do you know who saw this coming? Nerds. While one group said pretty good teams finish with anywhere from decent to disappointing results, the other printed Cup tickets after a win streak and is now losing its mind after a losing streak. That sounds exhausting for that second group. 

Is there an intangible aspect to it? Of course, but if they games are harder in March than they are in October, then wouldn't a worse team fare worse in them? And if the games are harder in March than they are in February, why are you using February games to justify your expectation that they should win in March? You heard it here first: Felger is now, to borrow an overused cliche of his, twisting himself into a pretzel. He'll always be my buddy, though. 

At any rate, the losses are frustrating, even if they are games a pretty good team could conceivably lose: 

  • March 16: The second night of a back-to-back on the road, playing a good Oilers team in Edmonton. 
  • March 20: Toronto, like them, was towards the bottom of the pack of playoff teams and also needed a win to keep their pace. 
  • March 21: The second game of a back-to-back, with Ottawa playing for seeding. 
  • March 23: A bigger game for Tampa than it was for the Bruins, as they needed a win to stay within arm’s reach of a the second Wild Card. 

Make no mistake: These are all games the Bruins went into thinking they had to have. Every point is precious to them at this part of the schedule. 

Great teams usually win their must-wins. Pretty good teams don’t. Hell, the 2013 Bruins were good enough to reach the Stanley Cup Final and they couldn’t win their must-wins to claim the division down the stretch. 

To question the guts of this team is to miss the point. Do you really think Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara are a bunch of softies? Did you miss what they did in 2011 with a proper supporting cast?  

And that’s the bigger point, and why Don Sweeney correctly chose not to invest at the trade deadline: The supporting cast of this team has not yet properly been built. In fact, it's so far from being completed that they weren't even one or two big pieces away.

It’s going to take a couple more years. Most likely, the Bruins will keep their core going into next season and continue to supplement it with Sweeney’s picks, with Charlie McAvoy, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and others hoping to help become that next Bergeron-Krejci-Lucic group that provides a longterm backbone for the roster. 

I don’t hate Sweeney’s direction right now. I would have tried for a shorter deal with David Backes (or not signed him), but Sweeney’s got enough guys in the pipeline that could set the team up going forward. Next year’s team should be exciting, even if it won’t be a sure-fire Cup contender. 

There’s value in this team getting into the playoffs, even if they were to get bounced early. David Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and the other Bruins’ youngsters would get postseason, while the team’s veterans would be able to head into next season with tangible proof of progress being made. My guess is that they get in.

If they don't, yes, it will be frustrating given how close they’ll have come. Yet it won’t be for lack of trying, and won’t be for lack of [insert fun sports term for “testicles”] as much as it will be made out to be. 

This team was never a lock to reach the postseason. It was expected to contend for the postseason, which is what it's doing. The team's current standing shouldn't be that big of a surprise. 

Talking points: Ryan Donato's goal helps Bruins clinch playoff berth

USA TODAY Sports Photos

Talking points: Ryan Donato's goal helps Bruins clinch playoff berth

GOLD STAR: Jaden Schwartz stepped up and won the game for the Blues with a couple of really good plays in the third period and overtime. He took advantage of a line change and a lax Bruins defense to snap a shot past Anton Khudobin from the face-off circle in the third period that tied up the game, and then went on a one-man rush in overtime before blasting a puck past Khudobin for the game-winner on a beautiful individual play. Schwartz finished with the two goals that represented all of the St. Louis offense, four shots on net, a hit and a takeaway in 20:02 of ice time while logging a plus-2 rating as well. The Blues clearly needed somebody to step up to the plate with Vladimir Tarasenko and the Schwartz was with St. Louis on Wednesday night.

BLACK EYE: The Bruins were quite literally black and blue after a physical, punishing game with the St. Louis Blues. A number of players took heavy hits against a St. Louis team that felt free to throw hits and take runs with Zdeno Chara and David Backes out of Boston’s lineup among other players, and that culminated with Brayden Schenn drilling David Krejci in the second period. It was a hit that earned Schenn a two minute penalty for charging midway through the period, but shouldn’t result in anything more for the Blues forward. The hit wasn’t late, his skates were on the ice when he made contact, and Krejci was crouched down when Schenn made impact on a heavy check with his elbows tucked in, so it looked like a relatively clean hit that isn’t going to be on the radar of the NHL’s Player Safety Department. That physicality for the Blues really seemed to slow down the Bruins a little bit as things went on over the 60 plus minutes of the overtime game.


TURNING POINT: The Bruins actually only got outshot by a 15-13 margin in the second period, third period and overtime, but it was clear that they slowed down in terms of attacking and creating chances as things moved on in the game. By the latter half of the game the Bruins were simply trying to hang on to their one-goal lead, and then after that simply trying to hang in there for the point earned by getting to overtime. They managed to do it, but it was a different wave of momentum in the game once the Blues tied things up in the third period on Schwartz’s first goal. After that the Bruins were scrambling and hanging on, and did just enough to hang in there for a single overtime point for the second game in a row.

HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan Donato made it two goals in two games when he stepped into a loose puck created by an Alex Pietrangelo turnover that bounced off referee Brad Watson after he attempted to throw a puck up the middle of the ice. Donato pounced on the fortuitous bounce and rocked a puck on edge past Jake Allen for the game’s first goal and another affirmation that the 21-year-old can both shoot and score. Donato was pretty quiet after that goal, of course, with a couple of shots on net, but it seemed like a big, heavy hit on him by Dmitri Jaskin in the second period kind of quieted the youngster down a little bit. Still, you’ve got to love the production from a player just getting his feet wet at the NHL level.

BY THE NUMBERS: 100 – The number of points for the Bruins after falling in overtime by a 2-1 score to the Blues, and in getting to the century mark the B’s clinched a playoff spot for the second season in a row.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s step one. Going into the season we wanted to make the playoffs and be a Stanley Cup contender. Right now we got in and we’re going to be a contender, right? Now it’s about being in the best position possible going forward.” –Bruce Cassidy, to reporters in St. Louis about clinching the playoff spot on Wednesday night.


Bruins celebrate playoff berth with hilarious video about fans

File photo

Bruins celebrate playoff berth with hilarious video about fans

With a playoff berth in-hand, the Boston Bruins celebrated on Instagram with a playful video about their fans.

The short video put their fans into categories: the hugger, the faithful, the screamer, the loose cannon, the comfortable commentator and the emotional trainwreck.

No matter how the devotees enjoy Bruins games, they can all unit over their hockey team. Here's the vide for your enjoyment.

It's playoff time. Diehards unite. #InOurBlood

A post shared by Boston Bruins (@nhlbruins) on