The Boston Bruins are hitting their stride at the right time. With the playoffs quickly approaching, the Bruins have won four in a row and nineteen out of their last twenty-four games while also getting healthier as the weeks have progressed. They officially clinched a playoff spot last night with a dominant 7-2 victory over the Florida Panthers, and this stretch of victories has proved one thing to the entire league: the Bruins are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders this year.
The emergence of the scoring depth from the Bruins’ bottom three lines has been the major difference between this year and past years. Most of the core players are the same as last year, and one of the best lines in hockey, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, has been just as effective this year as it was last year. But the valuable scoring from the other forward lines along with exceptional goaltending has taken this team to the next level. David Krejci has turned back the clock and has been playing some great hockey for the Bruins in the past few weeks. He and his right-wing Jake Debrusk have developed tremendous chemistry and have both provided the team with key goals during the recent winning stretch. The acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have also helped the team gain some solid wing play, and they will both play a major role in the playoffs. In addition, the Bruins have received terrific goalie play from both their starter, Tuukka Rask, and their backup, Jaroslav Halak. They have both produced elite goaltending numbers, and because Halak has played so well in his backup role, Rask has been able to get more rest throughout the season and will be better rested going into the playoffs this year.
While most experts believe that the Tampa Bay Lightning are the best and most balanced team heading into the playoffs, the Bruins very well could be their biggest threat to the Cup. The Bruins are tied with the Calgary Flames for second in the league in points, and they have played the Lightning well so far this year. Even though the NHL playoffs make it so that the two teams would play in the second round of the playoffs as opposed to the Eastern Conference finals, it seems like they are on a collision course to meet up in a seven-game series for the second consecutive year. They will need to be nearly perfect in order to get by this extremely talented Lightning team, but if they can survive that test, there is no reason that they cannot go on to win the Stanley Cup.
There is something about this team that feels like they have something special going for them. They have the perfect build for a successful playoff team, from superstar offensive talent in Bergeron and Marchand to outstanding goalies in Rask and Halak, and their mix of Stanley Cup experience and energized youth should give them an edge over most potential competition in the playoffs. Their road to the Stanley Cup will undoubtedly be difficult, as their likely first-round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs has the potential to be extremely intense, and there will be setbacks along the way. But this team has what it takes to be the Stanley Cup champion, and no one should want to play the Bruins right now.