Over the last few weeks, Jim Montgomery and the Boston Bruins coaching staff began giving some of his battle-tested veterans a needed breather.
Patrice Bergeron, Hampus Lindholm, David Krejci, Charlie McAvoy and several other marquee players took advantage of the time off. Meanwhile, Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno and Derek Forbort continued rehabbing from their respective lower-body ailments.
Given their secured spot in the league standings, the Bruins entered the last month of the season with quite an ideal situation. They could manage the workload of their top players while simultaneously addressing their remaining deficiencies before the postseason.
The potential downside: Boston would slip a bit against desperate teams fighting for playoff positioning. Aside from a couple of hiccups, they’ve avoided complacency.
Thanks to their impeccable depth, the Bruins continue on their near-historic pace.
“It’s been a different lineup every night without a lot of consistency in the lines,” Hall said. “But we’ve been able to play well.”
Without Bergeron and Krejci in last Sunday’s win in Carolina and again a week later in St. Louis, Montgomery deployed a healthy spread of ice time among his forwards. The Bruins also kept Lindholm at home during their Raleigh trip and skated without McAvoy during the recent weekend sweep against the Penguins and Blues.
The Bruins’ depth shined during the load management phase. The four lines and three defensive pairs all made the most of their situations.
The absences allowed Charlie Coyle, Tyler Bertuzzi and Trent Frederic to shine in late-game situations. It also allowed Jakub Lauko and Oskar Steen a chance to showcase their worth in a bottom-six role.
Without a few significant cogs, Pastrnak entered takeover mode. The reigning NHL third star of the week posted seven goals and one assist over the last five games, including a hat trick last Saturday in Pittsburgh.
With five games remaining, Pastrnak sits just four goals shy of 60 on the season and 300 for his career.
The load management phase also provided a seamless transition from wing to center for Pavel Zacha. His steady playmaking and two-way presence provided stability down the middle without Bergeron and Krejci. During Bergeron’s absences against the Hurricanes and the Penguins, the former Devil notched four assists.
Indeed, Montgomery’s club couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. In the process, they also received a glimpse into the forecast for the post-Bergeron and Krejci era.
“It’s been great, not only for right now but for foreshadowing the future,” Montgomery said.
“Some of those players are going to get more minutes, whether it’s Charlie Coyle or Trent Frederic…it doesn’t matter who…Lauko is getting more minutes, you know. All those players who are getting more minutes allow them to get into situations they haven’t been in before. And next year or the year after when we have significant changes to the lineup, then they have been in those situations. So they’ll have a little more confidence in those situations.”
The confident B’s enter Thursday just two wins shy of matching the NHL single-season win total of 62 set by the 1995-96 Red Wings and 2018-19 Lightning. They may have some reinforcements to work with as history remains within sight.
Hall returned as a full participant for Wednesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena. The 2010 top overall pick returned to his third-line spot with Coyle and Bertuzzi.
The intriguing third line will provide another layer of depth for an already deep squad. Between their trio of trade deadline additions and the improved health of Hall, Forbort and Foligno, the Bruins could finally have their healthy complement of players assembled to bear the wear and tear of playoff hockey.
“It’s great. He’s a big part of this team,” Coyle said of Hall. “It’s been a little bit now, so we can use his speed. And with what he brings, it’s only going to make us that much deeper.”
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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