“I’m an optimist, but no, I didn’t think we’d be here right now. That’s the simplest answer,” Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told CBS Boston when asked if he thought the Bruins would be as good as they are. Nobody, not even the coach of the Bruins thought they would be as good as they are right now, but now 55 games into the season the Bruins are just three points behind the Lightning for the best record in the NHL. As the Bruins keep winning the question of if they can win the Stanley Cup will start being asked more and more, but there are more reasons why the Bruins will win the Stanley Cup, rather than why they won’t, and it all starts with their red-hot goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Tuukka beating but then responded.
In late November Tuukka was on pace for his worst season statistically as an NHL goaltender. Bruce Cassidy had no choice but to bench him for Anton Khudobin, but when that didn’t work out the Bruins had to put their faith in Rask, and he delivered.
The difference between Rask’s play before December 7th and after is night and day. Before December 7, Rask had a 5-8-2 record with just a .906 save percentage, and he was allowing 2.5 goals per game.
Since December 7th Tuukka has an incredible 18-1-2 record as the starter. He has looked like an entirely different player than before. On this astonishing run, Rask has allowed 1.67 goals per game with a .941 save percentage. He has been a force of nature on this run and if he keeps this play up that is reason enough as to why the Bruins will win the Stanley Cup.
One thing that makes this Bruins team so deadly is their ability to score in bunches. With scorers like Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak it is no wonder how Boston is putting together scoring barrages on defenses. The Bruins have scored four or more goals on 22 different occasions this season and currently rank third in the NHL averaging 3.3 goals per game.
In their last 13 games, the Bruins have scored four or more goals seven different times and are averaging 3.69 goals per game in that span with an 11-2-0 record.
Patrice Bergeron has been the fuel to the Bruins offensive firepower this season, and this is especially true during this run. Bergeron has 18 points during this streak and has propelled himself into possible Hart Memorial Trophy considerations.
Brad Marchand’s five-game suspension started on January 23rd after he elbowed a New Jersey defenseman. Before his suspension, Marchand was a potential Art Ross Trophy front-runner, and now that he is back he will try to climb his way back into those conversations. In his first four games back he has had a point in all of them and now has a point streak of eight games dating back to January 18.
The Bruins offense is on fire recently and if it continues this team will be tough to beat in the playoffs. They are peaking at just the right time and could potentially overtake Tampa Bay for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Along with the excellent play of Tuukka Rask and the Offensive outburst the Bruins defense has played very well this season. The Bruins have held teams to two goals or less 31 times out of 55 games this season.
A lot of the defensive success is due to the elevated play of veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara. His plus-minus rating of +27 is the highest he has had since the 2011-12 season where he had a +33 rating. Along with one of the league’s best plus-minus ratings Chara 17 points on six goals and 11 assists.
Along with Chara, the emergence of 20-year old defenseman Charlie McAvoy has helped guide the Bruins into the NHL’s elite. McAvoy already has 26 points on the year and needs to be in serious considerations for the Calder Memorial Trophy.
Charlie McAvoy experienced quite a scare when he a had a heart-related injury that sidelined him a few weeks ago. Now McAvoy is back to his old self and is playing at the level we saw at the beginning of the year. The process of returning from a heart injury can be tremendously terrifying, but McAvoy is handling it just like any other injury. Right now his primary goal is getting back up to where he was when he left the Bruins. When asked about returning from his injury McAvoy told the Boston Herald
“It’s kind of tough, because you get the rest and you feel good in that regard,” McAvoy said. “I don’t want to say you lose a step, but whenever you’re not playing, and you come back, you have to readjust yourself, so you can get to where you felt you were when you left off, especially when you leave off on a good note. And it’s easier said than done. Guys come back from injuries every day in this league, but it’s definitely hard to get back into that game pace. So I’m continuing to feel better. I’m starting to feel good, and I’m just trying to get better every day.”
Now that he is back McAvoy will look to get back to the way he was when he left off. Boston has played great without him, and now that he is back and getting into his rhythm again, they can be even better.
The Bruins Will Win The Stanley Cup If…
The Bruins will win the Stanley Cup if they can get continued good play from Tuukka Rask. The Eastern Conference is loaded with teams that are full of goal scorers and no matter how good your defense is those guys will get good looks. Rask doesn’t need to play ungodly like he has the last few weeks, but he will need to have a strong postseason if the Bruins are going to take home the Stanley Cup.
It is looking like the Bruins could potentially have home-ice all throughout the playoffs, and if that happens, there is a genuine possibility that they will make it. It will be a group effort, but this team has shown that they can beat any team on any night. As of right now, I would say they are the best team in the NHL, but come playoff time my viewpoint could change on that. But for now their play has warranted the attention of the national media, and they are serious Stanley Cup contenders.
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