The sky is no longer falling after the Bruins snapped their five-game losing streak with last weekend’s very necessary win over the Florida Panthers.
The B’s are still one of the best teams in the NHL and they still lead the Atlantic Division by a wide margin with only the Sabres able to get within single digits in the divisional standings, and there probably won’t be another losing streak like this one for the rest of the regular season. But the losing streak — and in particular the losses to Colorado, Washington and Tampa — raise the concerns that the Bruins will succumb to the same old issues in the postseason once again.
That means it’s incumbent upon Don Sweeney to improve this team if he wants them to make another extended run like last season, and have the answers needed for a Cup team rather than falling short, like they did last spring. It remains to be seen if they’re going to be able to do that.
As always, these are real questions from real Bruins fans using the #HaggBag hash tag on Twitter, sending messages on the NBCS Facebook fan page and sending emails to my firstname.lastname@example.org email address. Now on to the bag:
It's tough to be critical of a very good Bruins team leading their division by [nine] points, and coming off tough losses to Washington and Tampa Bay, games that could have went either way. Is this Bruins roster capable of beating Washington, Tampa Bay or Colorado in a 7-game series? The Bruins missed a golden opportunity last year to win the Cup when Washington and Tampa Bay got upset.
Losing the Cup final to St. Louis still stings. You will never convince me that St. Louis had a better team than Boston. But I guess when you lose the final 3 games of that series on home ice you deserve to lose. The Bruins continue to have an ongoing problem: no secondary scoring. Jake DeBrusk is a good player but would not be a top 6 forward on Washington, Tampa Bay, Colorado or the Leafs. Charlie Coyle should probably be in the top 6, but if he plays the wing on the second line, then you do not have a third line center. The GM must address these problems, or a very good Bruins team probably doesn't have a shot at the Cup.
Terry Carpenter, Cambridge, Ontario
JH: Good stuff, Terry. It’s pretty much all true, though I think the Bruins would beat Colorado in a seven-game series based on the Avs very average goaltending. Tampa Bay or Washington? I’m not sure I love the Bruins chances if they get matched up with either one, and their respective first-round eliminations absolutely played into Boston getting all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.
I’m beginning to come around to your assessment of Jake DeBrusk as well. He’s a fine left winger and a streaky good goal-scorer, but I’m beginning to think that he’s far too one-dimensional to be a top-6 left winger. He can score in bunches and he certainly is a pretty good skater, but he doesn’t really bring much else to the table and plays far too passive of a game for a player whom the Bruins rely on pretty heavily at this point. And he doesn’t seem to be getting any better either.
If I were the Bruins, I would move Charlie Coyle up to the right wing on one of the top two lines and call up either Trent Frederic or Jack Studnicka to be the third-line center with Anders Bjork and Danton Heinen on either side of them. And then eventually either trade for a legit goal-scoring left wing or deal for a right wing like Tyler Toffoli who could allow Coyle to eventually slot back down to the third line.
But once again, the Bruins are short a top-6 winger on this roster, and they ideally need to find one who can score goals often enough to make David Krejci's second line a consistently dangerous one.
But then again, I’m pessimistic of the Bruins getting back to the Cup Final this season no matter what they do based on the recent history of Cup Final teams in the following season. In the past 10 years, only the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to get back to the Stanley Cup Final the season after playing into June, and they obviously won it in each of those two Cup Final appearances.
Bruins need to go after Josh Anderson. His price has decreased this year and he has a high ceiling.
--Tim Ahern (@bruins8988)
JH: I certainly don’t hate this. He’s 25 years old, he’s 6-foot-3, 220-pounds and he’s coming off 27 goals and 47 points last season. Anderson was a handful and highly effective during the playoffs for Columbus and has the strength and willingness to play a tough game. He’s got one goal and is a minus-8 in 26 games thus far this year for the Blue Jackets, so his value is definitely down after averaging 18 goals and 30 points a season prior to last year’s breakout. Certainly he may not be as good as he was last year, but he’s also entering restricted free agency with arbitration rights after this season with a good raise from his current $1.875 million salary coming his way.
Would the Blue Jackets be interested in a package that included perhaps a second-round pick and Ohio-born Sean Kuraly going back to the Columbus Blue Jackets? It may take more than that given his young age, his RFA status and the 27 goals last season, but I’d put him in the same “good fit for the Bruins” category as Tyler Toffoli.
I don't understand why L.A. would just scratch [Ilya Kovalchuk]? Is he so bad that it's worth putting $6M+ on a shelf? I mean...that's the answer to whether he'd be a good signing. It seems like he's probably in the same boat as Backes.
--Ian Crossman (@thehunkfunk)
JH: He’d be a lot cheaper than Backes if the Bruins were going to sign him to a new contract after getting released from his deal with L.A. He also has some more high-end offensive ability than Backes even at his advanced age of 36, so he could help on the second PP unit which doesn’t like to shoot the puck. He could also be a really interesting finisher for the second line with David Krejci. Backes and Krejci have never really meshed in any of the instances that the Bruins have tried to put them together.
Bobrovsky's [expletive] mental when it comes to the Bruins, you understand? He has Bruinsitis.
--Kendall Littlejohn (@ThisKendall)
JH: I do understand. Should Bob be talking antibiotics for his raging case of Bruinsitis?
Offense or defense, talented or not, the Bruins have to be the worst team ever to go on penalty shots and/or shootouts.
JH: Yeah, I don’t really get it. They have arguably the best goaltending duo in the NHL and they have arguably the best, most prolific forward line in the NHL as well with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak, but they really aren’t very good at all in shootouts. And this isn’t a new thing either. There’s a reason that Riley Nash got some reps on the shootout when he was with the Bruins. It’s because players like Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak aren’t as consistently good in them as you’d expect them to be.
The good news is that there aren’t as many shootouts as there used to be prior to the advent of 3-on-3 overtime, and it’s not as big of an issue as it might have been even five years ago. The Bruins are usually a pretty good overtime team, so that’s more important than any potential issues in the shootout. Shootouts also don’t matter a whit once you get to the playoff season, so that’s also something important to keep in mind when aggravation sets in about the B’s losing another one.