The Boston Bruins are annually viewed as Stanley Cup contenders, as the team has spent years playing at a high level. This season, however, has a different feel to it.
In the 2021-2022 season, the Bruins have been largely overshadowed by teams like the Florida Panthers, which started the year hotter than any other team, and the New York Rangers, which quickly proved to be a legitimate playoff team in the Metropolitan Division.
Based on recent history, I trust that Boston will get into the postseason and be competitive, but at the same time, I’ve been underwhelmed by this team this season. So, my question is: are the Bruins actually a good team, or are they just hanging around?
With a 26-14-3 record on the season, Boston is obviously competent, especially given the comfortable cushion between them and current non-playoff teams, but what does that mean? Upon further review, I confess myself surprised.
Can the Bruins actually compete in the East this year?
The reality of this team is that it has been very solid in almost all statistical categories this season. Boston ranks fourth in the NHL on the power play (26.4%), eighth on the penalty kill (83.2%), fourth in faceoff win percentage (53.9%), fifth in shots against per game (29.0), fourth in shots for per game (35.0), and 11th in point percentage (.640).
The stars of the Bruins have continued to play elite hockey all season, too. Brad Marchand is 12th in the NHL in points (49), David Pastrnak is 13th in goals (22) and third in power play goals (11), and captain Patrice Bergeron is first in faceoff win percentage (63.0%).
My expectation was that I would find a glaring deficiency in at least one of these categories, yet the Bruins have excelled in many ways this year. The only place where Boston isn’t as strong is in terms of goals per game, where the team is in the middle of the pack at three goals per contest.
That, to me, is a sign that the depth scoring still isn’t as strong as it should be. That was a problem for the B’s last season and should be a focus at the trade deadline. With that said, nothing else is holding the Bruins back.
Boston’s +11 goal differential indicates that the team hasn’t been dominant, but if the bottom half of the lineup is upgraded, I see that changing. The Bruins have a tough path into the top three in the Atlantic Division, but it’s not impossible, and it also doesn’t mean that the Bruins will be the team least-equipped to handle the playoffs (sorry, Toronto).
I suppose that when you’re as used to regular season success as the Boston Bruins, it’s easy to be overlooked. As it turns out, this team is solid and with a few key acquisitions, could make yet another deep run in the playoffs.