The Bruins have completed roughly 20 percent of their regular season schedule. The team post-Thanksgiving break resides in fifth place in the Atlantic division. This leaves them currently out of playoff positioning. While it is still early, positioning in the standings at Thanksgiving is substantial in terms of importance. Per the Athletic, the “Thanksgiving Day rule” has been a relatively strong measuring stick for quite some time now. The rule, or metric, shows that teams currently in a playoff spot come Thanksgiving break have an 80 percent chance of staying in playoff contention. That’s a scary metric given the Bruins’ current positioning. As a Bruins fan, now is not the time to panic. However, there are reasons to be concerned.
Bruins and uncontrollable inconsistency
The Bruins, along with the Islanders who are also slumping, have both played the least number of games in the Eastern Conference with 17 games played. This doesn’t bode well for new players creating chemistry nor individuals finding consistency within their play. The team and players have all acknowledge this as being quite the obstacle. Another factor is injuries. Outside of the first line, the other three offensive lines have seen an influx of various players up to this point in the season. The team finds themselves healthy for the first time since the start of the season. Giving players a chance to really mesh and hopefully remain healthy for a longer stretch.
Bruins players and lineup spots
A few big concerns for the Bruins heading into the season were 1. The loss of David Krejci 2. The loss of Tuukka Rask and 3. The lack of defensive depth or talent in the top four.
The loss of David Krejci was huge. Expectations have since be raised quite high for Charlie Coyle. A player who seems better suited for a third line role. While Coyle and his line mates may or may not pass the eye test early on this season, Coyle has quietly produced. With six goals and five assists on the season, Coyle is currently on pace for 28 goals and 53 points. Those are modest second line numbers. Fellow line mate Taylor Hall has posted similar numbers. Their line has been without Craig Smith who, even when healthy, has struggled to find the back of the net early on. Smith was a slow starter last year as well before he caught fire. Let’s see if he can do the same this season.
Goaltending hasn’t been stellar by any means. However, both Linus Ullmark and rookie Jeremy Swayman have consistently giving the Bruins chances to win. Neither have really stolen a game yet though for the Black and Gold. With Tuukka Rask looming, both goaltenders will need to pick up their play. Neither one has yet to separate themselves as the go-to guy in this early season.
Lastly: the defense. The big focus this past offseason was on the left side and getting someone in to play within the top four opposite of either Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo. Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney brought back Mike Reilly, who has struggled early on, and signed newcomer Derek Forbort who has been steady. However, both are probably better suited for bottom pairing roles and spending less minutes against opposing teams to players.
A point of concern that I’m not sure many had, including the Bruins, was the right side of the defense. After McAvoy and Carlo, the Bruins have Conor Clifton. Cliffy hockey has had inconsistencies in his own play this young season. Often being a healthy scratchy for the Bruins. Which also forces guys like Forbort, Reilly and Jakub Zboril to play their off-side.
Time will tell for this Bruins squad. The schedule is starting to ramp up which is a good thing as they look to gain some normalcy and chemistry as a team. Assembling the identity the Bruins wants to embody and also making their playoff aspirations a reality all while defying the odds.
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-Josh Croteau (@_JCRO on Twitter)
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