The Boston Bruins have found themselves in a tight race to secure a spot in the postseason.
Since the 2013-14 season, the NHL has followed a four division, two conference alignment. The top three teams in each conference make the playoffs, as well as two wild cards from each conference, bringing the total number of teams in the postseason to 16. The Bruins are currently vying for one of those wild card slots.
It’s absolute chaos in the Atlantic Division. Not a single team has clinched a playoff berth and there are currently five teams that could slide into the second wild card slot: the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Boston Bruins, the New York Islanders, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Eastern Conference playoff landscape could be drastically different tomorrow than it is today. It’s a bloodbath and the Bruins are finding themselves in the middle of it. Since the firing of Head Coach Claude Julien, the Bruins have gone 12-7-0 under new Head Coach Bruce Cassidy.
Their game this past week against the Islanders snapped a four-game losing streak and earned them some critical points against a team who also desperately needs them. Bruce Cassidy went 7-1 in his first eight games as head coach. Since his hot start, the Bruins have gone 5-6. This is partly because Cassidy brought a new style of play to the Bruins offense. He encouraged his men to attack more than Claude Julien ever had, which led to some good chances from his defense and enabled his forwards to control the movement of the game.
This is something unusual for the Bruins and caught other teams by surprise, but Cassidy’s peers have seen his games and caught up to his style. Now, Cassidy wants to get back to what he calls the “fabric” of the Bruins’ game, a defensive-centric style focused more on managing the puck and less on going on the attack. The Bruins players are on board, looking back to their success when Cassidy first started.
In an uncertain race, one thing is for sure — the players need to buy-in if they don’t want to be playing golf in May, because Bruce Cassidy isn’t out there on skates scoring goals in overtime. The Bruins need to buy-in and buy-in quickly, because time is running out to secure those last couple points and the Bruins have a daunting last couple of weeks. They have to play Nashville (38-25), Dallas (30-33), Florida (33-30), Chicago (48-21), Tampa Bay (36-29), Ottawa (41-25) and Washington (49-17). Fortunately, all but the game versus Chicago will be played in Boston, a place they have gone 19-16 this season.
If they don’t pull through, the Bruins will have missed the playoffs for the third consecutive year. If they do make it, they will most likely face the Washington Capitals.
Led by Alexander Ovechkin, the Caps are a favorite to go all the way this year. The B’s facing off against the Caps would be a David versus Goliath story. A win versus them would deny Ovechkin the most promising bid for his first Stanley Cup that he’s yet to receive. You can believe that Ovi is going to come gunning. He’s taking no prisoners and neither can the Bruins if they hope to move very deep at all this year towards Lord Stanley’s prize.