The Boston Bruins offense exploded Sunday for a 6-3 win over the first-place Washington Capitals in one of the team's most exciting games of the 2020-21 NHL season.
The Bruins were aggressive at the trade deadline and made two trades to bring in forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar, as well as defenseman Mike Reilly. The early returns have been excellent through four games as Boston is undefeated (4-0-0) with its revamped roster.
Here are three reasons why the Bruins are early winners from the trade deadline (All stats via Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise noted).
SCORING DEPTH IMPROVED
Scoring depth, scoring depth, scoring depth.
If you consume Bruins content often, you've heard about the team's lack of scoring depth and how it has plagued them for years.
B's general manager Don Sweeney's trade deadline deals have improved this weakness. Just look at the second line of Taylor Hall, David Krejci and Craig Smith. Krejci badly needed another quality winger and Hall has proven to be a great fit so far.
In four games together, Hall has scored twice with one assist, Krejci has three goals and two assists, and Smith has two goals and three assists. Krejci's three goals with Hall in the lineup are one more than he had scored in the 35 games before the trade.
A rejuvenated Krejci and his excellent chemistry with Hall and Smith gives the Bruins a perfect compliment to the elite top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
Curtis Lazar, who came over in the Hall trade with the Buffalo Sabres, also is giving the Bruins a nice jolt of energy and scoring in the bottom-six. The B's are accounting for more than 55 percent of the shot attempts, shots on net and scoring chances with Lazar on the ice at 5-on-5 in his four games with the team.
The Bruins have scored 16 goals and allowed four since the trade deadline. Hall and Lazar have fit seamlessly into the lineup and have allowed other players to play in roles that better suit them -- like Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk playing on the third line instead of with Krejci on the second line.
BETTER 5-ON-5 PLAY
The Bruins have struggled to generate offense at 5-on-5 the whole season, but the tide has changed in the team's favor since the trade deadline.
Boston has scored 10 goals with four against during 5-on-5 action through these four games. The improvement at 5-on-5 isn't only about goals, though. The Bruins are creating more scoring chances (and higher quality chances) and dominating puck possession during 5-on-5 action as well.
Here's a chart that illustrates the excellent 5-on-5 numbers.
|Since NHL Trade Deadline||5-on-5||NHL Rank|
|Shot Attempt %||55.27||5th|
|Shots on Net %||58.62||4th|
|Goals For %||71.43||4th|
|Scoring Chances For %||59.12||4th|
|High-Danger Shot Attempt %||66.07||2nd|
The addition of Hall to bolster the second line also has made a meaningful difference at 5-on-5, too. Hall has played 45 5-on-5 minutes with the Bruins and the team has a 31-17 lead in shots on net, a 29-19 edge in scoring chances and a 5-1 advantage in goals over that span.
The Bruins are still 27th in goals scored at 5-on-5 on the season, so there remains plenty of room for improvement. The recent uptick in shots, scoring chances and actual goals at 5-on-5 is pretty encouraging, though, especially after a lack of 5-on-5 offense was the primary reason why the Lightning eliminated the Bruins in five games during the playoffs last season.
REILLY EXACTLY WHAT WAS NEEDED
The Bruins' most glaring need at the trade deadline was a left-shot defenseman who could improve the team's transition game and create offense. Mike Reilly has addressed those issues so far.
The 27-year-old defenseman is getting the B's out of their own zone by retrieving pucks cleanly and then making a good first pass up the ice. He's also not afraid to push forward in the attacking zone and create for teammates, as he did on David Pastrnak's goal late in the first period of Friday's win over the New York Islanders.
The Bruins also are driving shot attempts, shots on net and scoring chances at a high rate during 5-on-5 action with Reilly on the ice. They have a plus-20 edge in shot attempts, a plus-10 advantage in shots on net and a plus-15 lead in scoring chances in those situations.
One of the issues for B's defensemen this season has been getting shots through to the net. They've even found some creative ways to work on that during practice.
Reilly has 16 shot attempts (at all strengths) in four games and a team-leading 13 of them were on target -- nearly two times as many as the next-highest player (Connor Clifton's seven shots on 11 attempts). Even if Reilly is not scoring on these shots, hitting the net opens up potential rebound opportunities.
If the Bruins have Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo healthy for the first round of the playoffs -- and it's a big IF, to be honest -- the blue line will be in really good shape. Even if that's not the case, the addition of Reilly has provided much-needed depth, plus the ability to move the puck up ice and create scoring chances.