Here is part two of the Winter Classic preview series with the Stanley Cup of Chowder team. Managing editor, Dan Ryan, gives us an inside scoop on the state of the Bruins before puck drop on New Year’s Day at Norte Dame stadium.
What’s going on with the Bruins?
It’s been a weird season in Boston.
The Bruins came into the season as a Stanley Cup contender, viewed as a team that had a chance to make some noise after crashing out against a good Tampa Bay Lightning team in the second round last year.
There were questions of whether or not that view was deserved. The Bruins finished last season with an excellent overall record, challenging for the Presidents Trophy at various points, but they did that largely on the back of an otherworldly run of two months or so that saw them move from also-rans to top of the conference.
On either side of that run, the team was at times disappointing and maddening, and that’s the team we’ve been seeing this year. At best, this Bruins team relies heavily on their first line; at worse, they are truly a one-line team. This lack of depth is partially what doomed them against Tampa in the spring, and it’s been a problem again this season.
David Krejci picked up some of the slack in Patrice Bergeron’s absence, but the team hasn’t really been able to get much from its second and third lines over the course of the season. The team didn’t really do much to address its lack of secondary scoring in the offseason, and it has shown.
The other big story of this Bruins season has been injuries. The Bruins simply haven’t been able to stay healthy. Guys like Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have all missed time, with some missing significant time. At times, it has truly been nuts just how injured this team has been.
All of this has come together to make the first few months of the season pretty disappointing for Bruins fans. Many expected the B’s to challenge for first in the Atlantic Division; instead, they’re 10 points out of second in the division and 16 points out of first. I suspect the Buffalo Sabres will come back to Earth at some point this season, but it’s looking like either 3rd or Wild Card for the Bruins at this point.
Of course, there’s still plenty of time for things to turn around. The Bruins should be back at full strength in the week or so after the Winter Classic. Maybe that full group takes a few games to get its legs underneath it and goes on another run, bolstered by reinforcements at the trade deadline.
But right now, this group doesn’t look capable of challenging for first in its division, let alone for a Stanley Cup.
Bruins players to watch
Most Blackhawks fans are familiar with the Bruins’ big guns, as guys like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand were still big guns when these two teams met in the 2013 Final.
However, there are a few guys on the Bruins who might surprise Blackhawks fans in the Winter Classic. Here are some quick thoughts on a few of those guys.
The 2013 playoffs were Torey Krug’s coming out party, as he scored in his first two playoff games en route to “who is this guy?” comments from pundits around the league. However, he wasn’t quite the player then that he is now. Krug is an excellent puck-moving defenseman and a true weapon on the power play. He’s a fantastic skater and great passer as well. He may not be the most elite shutdown defenseman in his own zone, but he’s no slouch either. He’s a fun player to watch when he gets going.
DeBrusk is an exciting young kid who plays hard and has enough offensive touch to put up points. He was one of the Bruins infamous three-consecutive first round picks a few years back, and thus far, he’s been the only one to pan out. Fortunately, he’s panned out pretty well. He had 43 points in 70 regular season games last year, then added 8 in 12 playoff games. He scored the game-winner in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, a goal that was a good snapshot of how he plays the game: strong skating, a quick deke, and a hard-nosed drive to the net.
I debated whether or not to include Pastrnak in this list, as I figure that most people in the league are familiar with his talents. However, it never hurts to talk a little Pasta. Pastrnak is the most talented offensive player that the Bruins have had in the better part of a decade. The Bruins’ #88 might remind some Hawks fans of their own #88 in terms of how they play the game: unbelievable hands and a wicked shot. Pastrnak is a joy to watch on the ice, frequently attempting dekes or spin moves that he has no business attempting. His performance in last year’s series against Toronto opened a lot of NHL eyes to the kid, and a big performance in the Winter Classic should convert the rest of the non-believers.