Thanksgiving has been an early benchmark for every NHL team over the last 10 years.
The numbers are tried and true: Teams in one of the playoff positions on Turkey Day have a 75 percent chance of making the postseason. Teams within a few points of a playoff spot have close to a 25 percent chance. And teams more than five points out of the playoffs on Thanksgiving are on the NHL’s slow boat to nowhere.
The Bruins currently rank 14th among the 16 Eastern Conference teams and are four points behind the Islanders for the eighth and final playoff spot. They're now facing a three-game West Coast road trip that could drop them further behind.
Clearly, the B's know how critical the next few weeks are, even though we’re little more than a month into a new regular season.
“This is where you need to come through and really play hard,” said Matt Beleskey. “Guys like myself need to start chipping in and helping us win some games. It’s so tight every year, but there are games [that really matter] at the beginning of the year when you’re not even thinking playoffs. Then at the end you realize how important every single game is.”
A swing through Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose usually brings the Bruins to their knees during the best of times, but it’s difficult to envision them being all that competitive without David Backes, Ryan Spooner, Adam McQuaid, Brad Marchand, Anders Bjork and David Krejci for at least a portion of the trip.
But since the Bruins have yet to field their full lineup once all season, Bruce Cassidy isn’t putting much weight behind the B’s status on Thanksgiving this time around.
“We’re aware of the stats and the data around [Thanksgiving], so we want to be mindful of it . . . but we can’t let it run the show so to speak,” said Cassidy. “The message as a group is that we have to ‘trust the process.’ If we trust the process and play the right way, then we believe that we’ll get enough points. It might not be that way on Nov. 24, but that’s just the way we feel.
“Given the amount of adversity that we’ve dealt with, I think we’re going to have to let the Thanksgiving thing go a little bit. Hey, we don’t even know what our true team looks like right now to be honest with you. So I don’t think it’s even fair to use that [Thanksgiving] benchmark to say we’re not good enough. That’s how we look at it. The data matters, but the process matters and is equally important.”
It's understandable that the B's -- having lost six of their last eight with a depleted, rag-tag roster -- would feel that way. And perhaps they have a few pleasant surprises in store.
But it certainly sounds and feels like they're going to need a long run of winning, high-performance hockey for them to get where they want to be going.