BRIGHTON, Mass – Are the Bruins the unwitting victim primed for a hockey beat-down that we saw on opening night against the Washington Capitals?
Or are the Bruins the team that pummeled the NHL’s weak sisters out of Buffalo, Ottawa, Edmonton and Detroit by outscoring them 22-6 over the last four games, including a perfect 3-0-0 homestand where they crushed the Senators, Oilers and Red Wings?
The answer probably lies somewhere in between with the 7-0 loss to the Capitals being much more of the outlier, but there is still plenty of unknown about this year’s edition of the Bruins after losing to the reigning Stanley Cup champs, and then squashing four of last season’s worst teams right afterward. The Bruins will start to answer those questions when they head on a four game road swing through Canada that includes three stops in Western Canada this week against the Flames, Canucks and Oilers before stopping in Ottawa for another chance to slap around the Senators.
Bruce Cassidy wasn’t going to discount any of Boston’s four straight wins just because those teams weren’t any good last season, but even the Bruins head coach knows that a few more challenges are going to beneficial for the Black and Gold.
“We need to take care of business at home after our start, and I think we did that,” said Cassidy. “We got progressively better away from the puck, which made us better with the puck. We’re finishing well, obviously. Our top line is scoring and the power play is contributing. Now you take it on the road, and Calgary has started off well.
“It’s always a tough swing no matter what. I know people talk about the schedule a lot. I remember last year in the first five games we lost to Colorado twice and to Vegas, and we thought ‘Wow.’ That’s why I never like to get ahead of myself with the teams that we’re playing. We’re playing the schedule in front of us, and they both ended up being playoff teams. So you never know how it’s going to shake out. We just need to take care of business, and now we need to do it on the road.”
Certainly it’s not going to be a murderer’s row on the road trip either when faced with Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa, but three of those four teams have winning records at this early juncture of the season. Beyond that, the Bruins will be dealing with Edmonton’s home opener after their long odyssey back from a season opener in Sweden, and they’ll be facing a different challenge simply being so far away from home.
“It was important to have a good home stretch before heading out West because we knew that was coming up,” said Patrice Bergeron. “It’s going to be important that we rely on what we’ve been doing well here in Boston. We just need to bring that with us. I think it’s going to good to go on the road for a little bit. It’s like a 10-day trip. You want to start on a good note. But it was good to get things on track and play the hockey that we want to play.”
The positives, of course, are that there will be team-bonding, and that the Bruins have traditionally been a strong road team over the last few years. But it’s all now a proving ground during the regular season to see if the Bruins can at least match the 112-point group from last season, or surpass it with a team more readily built for the playoffs.
The next four games in Canada aren’t going to make-or-break for the Bruins, of course. But they will either reinforce the goal-scoring juggernaut that everybody saw lay waste to unwitting opponents at home last week, or open up a new set of questions about some of the soft spots on this current edition's roster.
Are the Bruins going to find a permanent answer for the third forward on the David Krejci line?
Will the third line finally get settled with David Backes in the middle, or will it continue to be in flux until they find a combo that can give them the two-way play they absolutely need for depth up front?
Can the Bruins power play and top line continue to carry this Bruins group, or will the one-dimensional nature of their offense catch up them once again just like it did in the second round of the playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning last spring?
Stay tuned to the answers to these questions and more as the Bruins continue to build their team identity with the first long road challenge of the season starting Wednesday night in Calgary.
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