The Bruins hold the 3rd position in the Atlantic Division. They’ve won 33 games (just 1 fewer than Florida, Tampa, and NYR) but there haven’t been many great wins. They’ve barely won games they should have won, they’ve survived games they probably should have lost. Last night, finally, the Bruins gave a home effort worthy of, what I feel is, their best win of the season. Boston and Pittsburgh sprinted into last night 2 points apart as the 2 wild card teams. Pittsburgh has been hot of late, Boston up and down, so this game was critical. It was on national TV. For the first time this year, with a lot of attention focused their way, the B’s were ready for the occasion and ran the Penguins out of the Garden with a 5-1 victory.
Be warned, the cynic in me here is still saying “typical Bruins, play well enough just before deadline to make you think, only to suck starting March 1st when it is too late”. I get that this team has been atrocious against the west, annoyingly bad at home, and terrible in their own zone the entire year. But they are 25-12-3 against the East. The Capitals are clearly the class of the East, but aren’t without their own giant elephant in the room (their complete and utter failure in postseasons past), and it looks like the B’s should escape the metropolitan division playoff bracket. Look, I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
So here it is, some of the items from last night that give me hope that the Bruins are ready for life after Monday.
Chara- that was Chara’s best game of the year. Claude gave him a job, to mirror Crosby all night, and Chara was outstanding. He skated shifts alongside every single D on the team last night. He was a force. It was refreshing, and nice of him to show up in a big spot.
Pastrnak- What a night. 2 goals, and he just missed another two. He’s 19 years old, and showing a lot of promise, and despite an early injury and mid season conditioning stint, he’s showing signs of development that were key heading into this season.
Ryan Spooner- He’s been so solid this year, but in a game where we should all be talking about his brilliant speed created 2 v 1 that lead to a Jimmy Hayes goal, I want to talk about a random open ice hit in the first period in his own zone. On the play he 1. got back, 2. got in position 3. took the body (not in a holy hell what a hit kind of way, but a separate the man from the puck, giving your D time, and now I’m skating myself open for a pass while this guy gets his shit together).
Tuukka Rask- As much as he struggles against the Habs, he dominates the Penguins.
Brad Marchand- Have a year, Brad.
ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM
It’s time to officially go on record on this, I expect Mike and Shinnick will weigh in on this at some point. I believe trading Loui Eriksson is the right thing to do.
1. I think the Bruins can survive the loss of Loui’s offense if they can get better on D and
2. I think the package the B’s can get for Loui either includes a D right then and there, or the return could be packaged with existing assets to go out and get the guy that could help.
3. I think the Bruins know if they stockpile picks again, they’ll be viewed as desperate to trade again in the offseason (ya, OK Don, you go make your 3 first round picks two years in a row). They are somewhat unpredictable right now, and frankly that’s a better bargaining position than they’ve been in for some time.
BUT RAY, WHAT IF THEY ONLY GET OFFERED MORE PICKS AND MIDDLING PROSPECTS: if you’re only going to get a 2nd and someone’s equivalent of Alex Khokalachev let Loui play out the string and wave goodbye. But, i think the NHL GMs lie. Despite trying to temper expectations, they realize Loui Eriksson is one of the better rentals available and the price will jump up to first round picks and/or top tier prospects. I think moving Loui is the key to improving the team immediately and in the future because weather it is Loui or the return on Loui coupled with existing assets, the Bruins have enough to convince a team to part with a good defenseman with term, or restricted rights.
OPTIMISTIC PRE DEADLINE PREDICTION
The Bruins trade Loui, add a D man we’ll be pleased with (Dumba/Trouba?), and make a “meh” move for a veteran winger to try and fill Eriksson’s spot (Versteeg?).
THE FULL CHIARELLI PREDICTION
The Bruins re-sign Loui to a 5 year, $35 million deal and add another 6/7th defenseman (Kris Russel?)
ACTUAL, OFFICIAL, PREDICTION
The Bruins move on from Loui, but instead of adding a promising young defenseman they’ll find a serviceable 4/5th defenseman (Hamhuis?) and a pick/prospect to supplement.