At the “halfway point” of the NHL season (which in reality is actually the 63.4% mark for the B’s since they have played the most games in the “first half” of any team in the league), the Boston Bruins are at a crossroads.
They could become the Big Bad Bruins yet again, and make a push to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. Or they could just as easily become the Bad Bruins, miss the postseason yet again, and fall further into obscurity in both Boston sports and the NHL.
Unfortunately for us Bruins fans, we have no idea which one of those teams is going to show up on a nightly basis. That has made for an absolutely maddening stretch of hockey this season, which at times were filled with great wins and outstanding performances, and at other times were more painful to sit through than getting a root canal with no Novocain.
The month of January is a microcosm of the madness and frustration surrounding the Bruins as they head into the “second half”. Boston has losses to the three worst teams in the Metropolitan (Islanders, Hurricanes, and Devils), with that 4-0 home loss to the Isles on Martin Luther King Day ranking as one of the worst “performances” ever seen at the Garden. They also blew a three-goal lead to the Wings in that 6-5 loss, and were totally outclassed by the Penguins last week to cap a brutal stretch of four losses in seven days by a combined score of 16-6 (or 10-1 if you take out the Red Wings loss).
In typical Bruins fashion, they followed up that horrible week with two solid victories, including one of their best games of the season against those same Penguins in the last game before the All-Star break. The B’s trailed 2-0 to one of the best squads in the league and the defending champs, then reeled off four straight goals along with a couple fights (including a great bout from Colin Miller which was pretty surprising to most fans), exhibiting that brand of hockey which makes the term “Big Bad Bruins” come to fruition.
That intensity, motivation, and physicality has been largely missing this season, and the sporadic flashes of it make it more puzzling when one tries to figure out what is up with this team. We all knew going into the season that the roster put before us was not good enough to raise the Cup, but it should be good enough to make the postseason, which is the most unpredictable of any of the major sports. Tuukka Rask stood on his head for the first two months of the season, so who knows how far this team could go in the playoffs if he recreated that stretch of play in April/May. The Bruins have also shown that they can score goals in bunches when their offense is clicking, and if they can figure out how to convert more of their shots on net into goals, then Rask may not need to revert back to his All-Star form (though it would be nice if he didn’t give up six goals a night like he did in the actual All-Star Game).
The big question is can the Bruins go a week or two without looking like a team that desperately needs to fire their head coach, who has the most wins in franchise history? After that fateful Islanders game, two of the Bruins’ leaders spoke out stating that the team wasn’t ready for the matinee game and that they may have overlooked their opponent. That should have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, but apparently the B’s front office either didn’t mind the media scrutiny and chatter or just was too oblivious to even notice it. Maybe they were too busy ignoring the glaring deficiencies on the current roster to realize their head coach may have worn out his welcome in Boston after 10 seasons.
Most fans have little to no confidence in the front office of the Bruins, which means that it may be solely up to the guys on the ice to determine the fate of this team. They can either shut up the media and please their loyal fans by playing like they did in the last game against the Penguins, or they can fuel more rumors by no-showing games like they did against the Islanders.
But judging by the first 52 games of the season, they are more likely to do a little bit of each, which will probably lead to their demise and another season on the outside looking in once the playoffs begin.
First Half MVP: Brad Marchand
Marchand has been the most consistent player on the ice for the Bruins, leading the team in goals (21), assists (28), points (49), and shorthanded goals (3), proving that last year’s career year wasn’t a fluke.
Honorable Mention: Tuukka Rask, David Pastrnak
Surprise of the First Half: Torey Krug
Coming into the season, there was a lot of chatter that Krug wasn’t big enough to be a top defenseman, and many worried if he would be deserving of the ice time he was slated to receive. And while his plus/minus still isn’t where it needs to be, Krug has been great on the improved power play, with 11 of his 27 assists coming on the man advantage.
Honorable Mention: Dominic Moore, Tim Schaller, Brandon Carlo
Disappointment of the First Half: Any Bruins backup goalie
Anton Khudobin has been absolutely terrible, and got waived with no takers last month. Zane McIntyre dominated the AHL, but was not much better than Khudobin during his stint in Boston. Malcolm Subban’s brother might be just as effective in net as he is. At this rate, Rask may have to play every game for the B’s to have a chance at making the playoffs.
Dis-honorable Mention: Jimmy Hayes – seriously why is he still on the roster?
Second Half Prediction: I have no clue
Every time I think this team has turned it around, they disappoint. Then every time I think they should blow up the team, they get a really good win. My head hurts thinking about the Bruins.
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