The first two months of the 2018-19 Boston Bruins season has been characterized by significant injuries that have cost many of its top players ice time. Patrice Bergeron has missed 14 games. Zdeno Chara has missed 15. For Charlie McAvoy, the number of missed games is 20. For Kevan Miller, it’s 22. Jake DeBrusk has missed five recent games and will miss some more before he’s able to return.
Despite all those injuries to key players, the Bruins enter Monday holding the last Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. They will face the team directly in front of them, the Montreal Canadiens, tonight at the Bell Centre. The B’s trail the Habs by just a point, so a regulation win puts them back in the first Wild Card spot.
The Bruins are one of the best defensive teams in the league, surrendering only 88 goals all season. Only the Nashville Predators (82) have given up fewer. Much of that credit should go to the goaltenders, Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, both of whom have at least eight wins and save percentages of 0.915 or better. Injuries to Chara, McAvoy, and Miller have also allowed for some growth and development for Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, and rookie Jeremy Lauzon. New additions John Moore and Steven Kampfer have both been steady.
Despite being one of the best defensive teams in the league, the Bruins are near the bottom of the league in goal scoring. As a team, they’ve only scored 90 times. And 21 of those have come from David Pastrnak. Brad Marchand and DeBrusk have scored 10 each. That means three players (one of whom is injured) have accounted about 45% of Boston’s goals. Add in Bergeron’s nine, and that percentage becomes 55% from just four players.
In today’s NHL, that is not a recipe for success. Most of the league’s top teams have at least one player on the top three lines that scores on a regular basis. For the Bruins this season (and in the playoffs last year), if the grouping with Pastrnak and Marchand is shut down, they usually don’t win.
With Bergeron and Chara expected to return soon, Boston will soon get some its fire power back. But players who were expected to progress (Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari) haven’t been up to their expected level. Unless that changes, the Bruins may find themselves fighting for a playoff spot come April.