BOSTON – The Bruins have hit the midpoint of their regular season after winning Game No. 41, 6-4 at home over the Calgary Flames, and they have plenty to feel good about.
The win featured two goals from Jake DeBrusk, some extra offense from unconventional places (John Moore) and the usual power play fireworks employed by the Bruins and most important, it featured plenty of offense. The Bruins are going to need that firepower to be as good as they can be in the second half, but it’s certainly okay for the B’s to take a minute to appreciate where they are at this point.
- MORE BRUINS - DeBrusk showing his importance to the offense
Despite a kind of crazy trip to China in the preseason, a slew of injuries, including losing Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron for extended periods and a Winter Classic appearance that could have acted as a distraction, the Bruins sit in the third spot in the Atlantic Division and are again on pace for 100 points this season.
They’ve done this despite having some very clear holes on the roster where young players haven’t stepped up to fill roles as they did last season. They’ve also done it despite feeling like an epic struggle when Chara and Bergeron were out. So, it’s perfectly understandable that optimism is high for the second half.
Certainly, some of the injury dues the Bruins paid are going to even out over the next 41 games, right?
“I feel good about it, to be honest with you. I mean right now we’re halfway through the year and it’s game 41 and we’re at 50 points. So, if we replicate the first half we’re at 100 points. We’d like to think we’ll get better, simply because a lot of the guys that were out that are key contributors are now healthy and the only one left is Charlie [McAvoy],” said Bruce Cassidy. “Charlie’s progressing well. We talked about that this morning. We hope to see him back on skates early next week. And from there I don’t know what day we’ll be in the lineup, but it won’t be too far along.
“We’re hoping, now that could change, but Nordy’s [Joakim Nordstrom] injury’s a tough one, but it’s a two, three weeks and that’s going to happen to every team. You just hope they’re spaced out, so I’d like to think we can improve in our second half. Hopefully, some of the younger guys are a little more comfortable and give us a little more of the offense they gave us last year and go from there.
"How do I feel? I feel pretty good, but we’re always going to push to get better and strive for that complete 60-minute game.”
Certainly, it’s going to get more difficult in the second half as the games rise in intensity and teams get desperate for the playoffs. At this point, it looks like there’s a cluster of nine teams for only eight spots, and despite their current pace, the Bruins sit just a couple of points out of being out of the postseason picture completely.
- MORE HAGGERTY - Talking Points from the 6-4 victory over the Flames
“I think we have to be happy with where we’re at, but can’t be satisfied. We can definitely be a little bit better here, you know, especially when you look at the standings there’s a number of teams battling for each and every spot every night. Teams are going to flip-flop for the rest of the year,” said Brad Marchand. “That’s kind of been the way it is the last four or five years now, there’s so much parity in the league. We can’t get caught up in where we’re at.
“We have to continue to work on our game and our process, and making sure we’re good every night. It’s only going to get harder from here, so we have to make sure we’re ready to battle even harder the rest of the year.”
So, there’s work to do by the players to see just how good they can be with a healthy, full roster for the first time all season and there’s work to done by general manager Don Sweeney to add to the Bruins' current group.
The roster is screaming for a second-line winger who can put pucks in the net and has a little size and nasty to his game. They’re not going to match up with Toronto or Tampa Bay in the postseason if Colby Cave is their third line center. The win over Calgary was a case in point as Ryan Donato got yet another chance to win the right wing gig on David Krejci's line, but it was Danton Heinen in the third period with a blocked shot in that spot who kick-started DeBrusk’s game-winning goal rush.
Cassidy alluded to the revolving door on the second line in his postgame comments, and it’s clear the Bruins need some kind of answer there if they hope to go on any kind of run in the postseason.
“[David Krejci’s] numbers are up and obviously, some of that is playing on the top line,” said Cassidy. “But he’s got to find the missing piece over there [on the right wing] to help them out and really be a two-headed monster [with the top two lines].”
But the playoffs and the trade deadline are stories that will play out in the coming weeks and months for the Black and Gold. The win over the Flames on Thursday night was about getting the two points and taking a quick look back at what the Bruins accomplished in the first half of the season while smacked around with adversity.
For a night at least, it was about a job well done. But it’s one that’s not even close to finished yet.
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