Battle tested Bruins face difficult stretch to close out regular season
Thirteen games remain for the Boston Bruins in 2016-17. Thanks to the Maple Leafs losing in Florida last night, their chances of advancing to the postseason for the first time since 2014 are at a season-high 83.3 percent according to Sports Club Stats.
Whether it’s bouncing back from losses or overcoming in-game adversity, the Bruins have been a resilient bunch since Bruce Cassidy took over on an interim basis over one month ago. They have not lost two in a row since the coaching change and are playing inspiring hockey.
As strong as they’ve been after Cassidy took over for now Canadiens head coach Claude Julien in early-February, the battle-tested Bruins are about to face their most difficult stretch of the campaign. Of their next 13 games, including tonight’s matchup against the red-hot Calgary Flames – winners of 10 straight – seven of those contests are against team’s currently in the top eight in the Eastern and Western Conferences. Four more are against teams who are just on the outside looking in.
The Bruins’ strength of schedule in remaining games is roughly 52 percent, tied with the Maple Leafs for the fourth highest in the Eastern Conference. Considering the way things went the last two seasons under Julien, one might be concerned that even the slightest of let downs when they face teams beneath them in the standings, like the Lightning, Islanders and Maple Leafs, could trigger another late regular season collapse for a third year in a row.
On the flip side of the buyer beware argument, the Bruins haven’t shown signs of letting down under Cassidy.
Every loss has resulted in a victory in the following game for the Black and Gold. Hart Trophy contender Brad Marchand is playing the best hockey of his career over the last 14 games. David Pastrnak continues to shine after a mid-season slump. Drew Stafford is proving to be a key trade deadline addition for Don Sweeney. The defense is pinching at the right times and contributing to the Bruins’ offensive surge. Both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin have been reliable when called upon.
Even with recent injuries to Ryan Spooner (who could return tonight vs. Calgary) and Tim Schaller after Cassidy saw his team stay healthy for nearly the first month on the job, the Bruins haven’t lost a step.
The Bruins have shown many positives under Cassidy. The one-game-at-a-time cliche is paying off in the heat of the playoff race. With their tough schedule that includes two meetings with the Lightning and Senators, and other pivotal matchups against the Flames, Oilers, Maple Leafs, Islanders, Predators, Panthers, Blackhawks and Capitals, that short-term approach is the best way at looking at their remaining slate.
Recent history may not be on their side over their last two performances in March and April, but this isn’t the same Bruins team under Julien, who will be forever treasured as one of the best coaches in franchise history. This is a new era under Cassidy, and a reason to be optimistic despite the tough matchups on the docket.