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This Might Not be the Boston Bruins Playoff Run We Are Used To

This doesn’t feel like the same Bruins team we are used to.

Patrice Bergeron by M. Richter is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

This Might Not be the Boston Bruins Playoff Run We Are Used To

Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

With a few weeks to go in the regular season, the Boston Bruins are in full playoff form. A record of 8-2 in their last 10 games, and one of the league’s best records since January 1st. They have transformed from a Wild-Card-at-best middling team to a contender for one of the Top 3 spots in a loaded Atlantic Division.

It’s not a totally unusual story for Boston fans, though. Whether under Bruce Cassidy or Claude Julien before him, the Bruins have often been regular season heroes, led by a core of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, and David Krecji (among others). And while Tuuks and the “Perfection Line” so often have led the proverbial horse to water, getting it to drink has proved another matter altogether.

Since their Stanley Cup title in 2011, Boston has made the playoffs in 8 of the last 10 seasons. Littered among numerous first- and second-round exits are 2 other appearances in the Stanley Cup finals- both of which ended in losses. Some might say that’s not too shabby. But for a team that has retained a core of experienced, veteran leadership for as long as it has, along with relative coaching stability to boot, it is equally disappointing that the Bruins have not claimed another championship in the past decade.

And yet, I just can’t help but feel like this upcoming playoff run might be different.

I’m not talking about the obvious eye test here. Familiar cast members such as Rask, Chara, and Krecji have all parted ways in the past couple years. Of course it’s going to look a bit different from a roster perspective. But there’s a few key signs in their play we shouldn’t overlook when it comes the Bruins and how dangerous they could be in the playoffs.

Secondary Scoring

This cannot be overstated. Consistent scoring outside the “Perfection Line” trio of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak has been a revelation. And the lack of it has plagued Boston in the postseason and orchestrated numerous early exits in recent memory. But the last few months should certainly have Bruins fans more optimistic in this department. Jake DeBrusk (21 goals) has come alive, burying pucks like a guy who requested a trade out of town. Taylor Hall (16 goals to go along with 36 assists) seems right at home in a supporting role. Charlie Coyle (15 goals) and Craig Smith (16 goals) are both turning it around after quiet starts to the season. They’re all clicking at the right time.

And consider this. Since 2016, the only Bruins players outside of the “Perfection Line” to reach the 20-goal mark in a season have been Debrusk (once) and David Krecji (twice). This season, with a dozen games remaining, we may very well see 4 players not named Bergeron, Marchand, or Pastrnak with 20 goals when it’s all said and done. If that doesn’t perk your ears up as a Bruins fan, you’re not paying close enough attention.

This is the Sway

If you want another reason as to why this playoff run for the Bruins might have a different feel, look no further than the kid in net. Jeremy Swayman has overtaken offseason acquisition Linus Ullmark as the number 1 option between the pipes. He owns a 20-9 record and a sparkling 2.23 GAA to go along with a .920 SV%.

You might look at that and think “That’s basically what Tuukka gave you most of the time, what’s the difference?”. And you’d be pondering a fair question. This to me is one of those intangible things. An eye test, combined with the fact that there’s always a young goalie every few years who comes out of nowhere to steal the show. Jordan Binnington for the Blues in 2019, or Matt Murray for the Penguins. If it’s a 3-year trend, then we are due for another young netminder to stand on his head and lead his team to the promised land. And it just feels like Swayman is perfectly positioned to do it. Hot team in front of him, a coach who believes in him. It’s all there.

But who knows? Maybe the Bruins are destined for another early exit (they certainly will have tough matchups in the early rounds given how the East is shaping up). Or maybe not. Maybe this is the year of secondary scoring, of a goaltender bailing them out when it matters most. Maybe we will see the perfect bookend to Bergeron’s career, one last title for a team that (as much as I hate to say it) has underachieved on the whole these past 10 years.

We will have our answer in a few short weeks.

Ryan Kelly lives in Cambridge, MA, a stone's throw away from his beloved Boston teams. When he is not working as an editorial assistant, he is providing commentary on the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins for The Turf.

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