While the Tampa Bay Lightning have been capturing all the attention of hockey fans everywhere (and rightfully so), another team has quietly gone on a remarkable hot streak. The Boston Bruins amassed at least a point in 19 straight games, meaning they either won (2 points) or lost in overtime or shootout (1 point) in every game since the All-Star Break, before a 4-2 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday. During this streak, the Bruins rattled off separate winning streaks of 7 and 6 straight and won 15 games overall. This 19 game point streak was the longest in Bruins franchise history (even longer than the streaks they had last season), and the longest point streak in the NHL this year (even longer than Tampa’s streaks earlier this season). So, what fueled this sudden burst from the Bruins, and how sustainable is it going forward?
First and foremost, the Bruins have finally become relatively healthy, with many of their players finally back and on the ice. For much of the year, several of their key contributors, from captain Zdeno Chara to star center Patrice Bergeron to goalie Tuukka Rask and a host of others, have been sidelined with various injuries. At one point, at least four of the Bruins top 6 defensemen were injured, leaving the blue line temporarily decimated. However, the Bruins have since healed from these early season wounds, and now ice a lineup that’s healthy and relatively rested. As a bonus, they get some much-needed NHL experience for some of their prospects and younger players, allowing the Bruins to dress replacements who have played at the NHL level before if needed come playoff time.
However, early on into the streak, the Bruins’ leading scorer, David Pastrnak, went down with a thumb injury. Before he went down, the Bruins were largely seen as a one-line team, with a great deal of scoring production coming from the top line of Pastrnak, Bergeron, Brad, and Marchand. Behind them, the secondary scoring was lackluster, with most of their depth not getting on the score sheet, so if you could stop the top line, you had a good chance to beat the Bruins. Since Pastrnak was sidelined, however, the depth scoring has really stepped up for Boston, making them a much more balanced and, consequently, a more formidable team to face. While the top guys like Bergeron and Marchand are still contributing at a good clip, now other depth guys like David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk (who has been hurt for the last couple of games), Danton Heinen, and Sean Kuraly have started producing points up front, and even guys like Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy are chipping in from the back end. If this balanced scoring can continue with the return of Pastrnak, the Bruins could become even scarier and assert themselves as one of the top threats to Tampa in the East.
The Bruins also have lots of experience in winning games, which no doubt helped them keep up this streak. Many players on this team were there for the Bruins’ string of success in the early 2010s (including winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and making the Cup Finals again in 2013). This main core of veterans has plenty of experience with winning, able to find various ways to win hockey games. Additionally, the Bruins found similar success last regular season, getting hot mid-way through the season and riding this success to a 114 point regular season (1 behind Tampa for the best record in the East). So, even the young guys have been exposed to winning lots of games, and know what it takes to be successful and win in the league. Now that the Bruins are relatively healthy, their experience with winning is finally coming to fruition, allowing them to dig deep and find ways to win.
So, how sustainable is this hot streak? Obviously, the Bruins cannot keep this pace up, especially as they enter the playoffs, where they will immediately see a Maple Leafs team hungry for revenge, and if they get past them, they will probably face steamroller known as the Lightning. The big question with the Bruins is indeed the injuries, as the last couple of years have proven how prone they can be to injury. However, they do have reserves with NHL experience waiting in the wings if one of their guys goes down, so they should still be able to confidently ice a lineup that can win games even if they do get banged up. If the Bruins can stay healthy, and the secondary scoring can keep contributing and balancing the scoring depth, the Bruins have the pieces and the experience to make a deep playoff push and pose a serious threat to Tampa. For now, the Bruins are rounding into form, and, although they will cool off a little before the playoffs, are looking to continue this momentum into the postseason.