Let’s hope Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was either bluffing or lowering expectations when he intimated that Boston might be done at the trade deadline after dealing for Wild center/winger Charlie Coyle earlier this week.
“I don’t know if we’re necessarily going to do anything else," Sweeney responded when asked what else the B's might do before Monday's deadline. "We are going to continue to make calls and receive calls, and we’ll continue to monitor the marketplace to see what may or may not fit with our hockey club. We’re going to continue to cross our fingers that we stay healthy. I think our club has put themselves in a position to compete for a playoff spot and improve the positioning if possible as we come down to the last 21 games. We’re going to continue to look at areas. But we’re excited.
"I talked to [coach Bruce Cassidy] last night and this morning, and he’s enjoyed watching Karson Kuhlman add something to our hockey club. He didn’t know him at all. He didn’t have him (during the September trip to) China (for a pair of exhibition games), so he’s learning on the fly with him. Peter Cehlarik is going to come back [from Providence] after he’s dealt with an injury. We’ve just got to stay healthy. That’s one of the paramount things as you go down the stretch. Will we look at adding more depth? Possibly. But we feel good about where we’re at while never feeling comfortable.”
Of course the Bruins feel exceedingly good.
They’ve won seven games in a row, taken points in 12 consecutive games and if the season ended today they’d enjoy home-ice advantage in the first round against a Maple Leafs team they’ve thoroughly dominated the last couple of seasons. Young players like Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk and Charlie McAvoy are hitting their stride at the most important time of the year, and Boston is getting the kind of elite goaltending they’re paying for from Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak.
But the old hockey adage is that you’re never as good as your best winning streak of the season and never quite as bad as your worst losing stretch of the season either. The Bruins can’t buy too much into what they’re doing without an injured David Pastrnak right now because that’s not going to be sustainable in the postseason.
There’s also some question as to how impactful Pastrnak is going to be when he does come back from a left thumb injury that’s almost certainly going to affect his shooting, passing and stick-handling for a time when he does return.
Despite the winning streak, the Bruins are almost 20 points behind the Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay Lightning and have a long way to go to catch to the Bolts in both the talent and depth departments. So the Bruins best not be done at this trade deadline if they hope to truly be Stanley Cup contenders.
They need more help if they want to last more than five games against the Lightning in a postseason showdown this spring.
The Bruins need a top-6 winger who will allow them to drop the suddenly-hot Heinen back to the third line with Coyle and David Backes, and more importantly will help them put the puck in the net during even-strength play.
The Bruins may not have the stomach to give up the kind of assets it’s going to take to land Artemi Panarin or Mark Stone, who will be expensive in terms of roster players, prospects and draft picks given their age and productivity. But certainly they will try, given the upgrade either one of them would represent to a Bruins team that needs a little more scoring punch.
It may come down to Wayne Simmonds, Michael Ferland, Thomas Vanek or Kevin Hayes in a rental-type situation. Whoever it is, the Bruins are going to need to pick up an established top-6 goal-scoring option. They've been two forwards short of a complete roster all season while rotating wingers for David Krejci, and mixing and matching third-line combinations around a number of young center prospects. They’ve finally addressed the third-line situation with the arrival of the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Coyle, and the organizational hope is that’s going to make the Bruins a more difficult match-up problem in the postseason.
Now comes the tough part for Sweeney and Co.
Finding a top-6 winger who can score goals, generate chemistry with one of the top lines and bring the Bruins a little closer to Tampa Bay in talent and depth isn’t going to be easy. They’ll be going head-to-head with Toronto and Tampa Bay for these players in something of an Atlantic Division arms race over the next few days. Maybe that’s why the Bruins GM was playing coy with the media when answering questions about his trade deadline plans from here on out.
But the Bruins better not be done if they truly hope to give guys like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara their best shot at another title, and more importantly give Bruins fans a hockey club with a legitimate chance to be a winner this spring.
Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.