Some teams are just destined to win a title, and the 2017-18 Boston Bruins might be one of those teams.
The 2013 Boston Red Sox had no business winning the World Series. Their roster was littered with veterans and young players, but other than David Ortiz and possibly Jon Lester, there were no real household names on that team. They through a rookie at a position he didn’t play in the postseason, and had a combination of Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes starting in the outfield. And yet after the horrific events of April 15, 2013, when the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, the Band of Brothers went on an epic mission to bring the city of Boston a title.
The 2001 New England Patriots were the huge underdog in Super Bowl XXXVI. They were facing the “Greatest Show on Turf”, the St. Louis Rams, who had an unstoppable offense. And the Pats were starting an unknown backup QB who nearly went the entire 2000 NFL Draft without being selected – we all know what pick he ended up being. Their defense was stout, but there was no way their offense could match the potent Rams lineup… I mean who even knows who their leading runner was in 2001? I had to look it up myself – Antowain Smith. Yet they pulled off one of the biggest surprises in Super Bowl history, shocking the Rams 20-17 for their first of five titles in the 21st century.
The 2017-18 Boston Bruins have more stars than the 2001 Pats, and they thankfully are not playing in the shadow of a local tragedy, but there are some strong signs that this team is destined to take a strong shot at hoisting the Stanley Cup.
The B’s just went 6-0-0 on their recent homestand, which would be pretty remarkable without considering that they were missing three of their top players for either some or all of that stretch.
Patrice Bergeron broke a bone in his foot prior to the six-game winning streak, which could have been devastating news. Prior to the injury, Bergeron was on the short list of Hart Trophy candidates, and had all but locked up his fifth Selke Trophy for best defensive forward in the NHL. Bergeron literally does everything and then some on the ice on every shift. Missing that in a lineup for an extended period of time should be borderline debilitating.
Add to that the recent MCL injury to defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who was also in the running for the Calder Trophy for top rookie. McAvoy is still towards the top of the NHL in plus/minus with a gaudy +26 rating – which is the same +/- as his defensive partner Zdeno Chara – and he’s still tied for sixth on the Bruins in assists with 25 in 59 games. The 20-year-old looks like a veteran, and not only skirted the rookie wall but jumped right over it. You can see just how much the Bruins miss him recently, as they have allowed nearly a goal per game more in the four games he’s missed than prior to his knee ailment.
The B’s were also without David Backes, whose physical presence and timely offense this year has shown why Boston gave him a hefty contract last offseason, for the last two games of that homestand after a questionable three-game suspension.
And yet, Boston still won every game last week. They nearly won on Sunday without Bergeron, McAvoy, Backes, and Brad Marchand too.
And just when you thought you had seen everything, Tuesday night happened.
Trailing 4-1 with less than ten minutes left, with the score not even close to showing how badly Boston was being outplayed, the B’s scored five times in a little over eight minutes to stun the Hurricanes. What made a five-goal barrage even more unlikely was the fact that Boston was missing Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, and Jake DeBrusk in the final period alone – not to mention Bergeron and McAvoy still being out – and yet they still won.
If you didn’t think this Bruins team was destined for something special before Tuesday night, you probably do now.
The Bruins weren’t supposed to be this good this season. The 2017-18 season was going to be a sort of “bridge year”, with Boston attempting to incorporate several young players onto their roster. A plethora of injuries early in the year made the B’s dip further into their impressive stash of talent, and allowed for several prospects to prove that they were deserving of regular ice time once the team regained its health.
The youngsters have stepped up in enormous ways, and are another reason there could be something great coming for this team sooner rather than later. Or actually both sooner and later, because there is still an absurd amount of talent waiting to get an opportunity to shine at the NHL level.
Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk have been spectacular all season long, with both hovering around the 40-point mark with 14 games remaining. Matt Grzelcyk is the perfect example of someone who took a small opportunity and made sure he snatched playing time away from established veterans. Grzelcyk is a +23 in 48 games, which is an absurd plus/minus yet is behind four others on this roster (Brad Marchand +33, Bergeron +26, McAvoy +26, Chara +26).
The Bruins have also gotten huge contributions from unlikely sources. Did anyone really think Riley Nash would not only be the replacement on the first line for Bergeron, but would have 13 goals and 25 assists this season? Speaking of unlikely, the entire fourth line – Tim Schaller, Sean Kuraly, and Noel Acciari – has become one of the best energy lines in the NHL, and has also pumped in 24 goals and 20 assists combined.
Adding Rick Nash at the deadline was a huge boost, but it was the two minor moves – trading for Nick Holden and signing Brian Gionta – that has had an even bigger impact recently. Holden and Gionta are the Bruins’ version of Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz from the 2004 Red Sox. They are veterans who became integral pieces on a championship team. Holden and Gionta were supposed to merely be depth moves, but have had to play on a nightly basis due to injuries. Gionta has six points in seven games, while Holden has four assists and played nearly 25 minutes on Tuesday night after two more injuries to Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara.
Overcoming long odds, earning crazy victories, and having both young and old players produce at unlikely levels are three reasons why the Boston Bruins look primed to do something special during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)