Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

The Boston Bruins are human after all.

While it hasn’t had the same magical, fairytale feeling as the NHL record-breaking 2022-23 campaign, the B’s looked like they didn’t miss a beat to start this season. But, in the past month, they’ve come back down to Earth.

Bruins’ Hot Start

The Bruins opened up this season with a six-game winning streak, giving up just two goals or less in each of those contests. They managed to get at least one point out of their first 10 games, only being dished their first regulation loss of the season in Game 11 versus the Detroit Red Wings.

It was during that game we saw Boston give up three goals in the span of four minutes in the third period. A power play goal from David Pastrnak late in the game wasn’t enough to draw the Bruins even, and the 6-4-1 Red Wings toppled the 9-0-1 Bruins.

Charlie Coyle, Boston Bruins and Michael McLeod, New Jersey Devils (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Boston shook things off by defeating the Dallas Stars 3-2 and the New York Islanders 5-2, bringing their record to an impressive 11-1-1. They went 3-0-2 in their next five games to bring themselves to a 14-1-3 record 18 games into the season.

Pastrnak and Brad Marchand were firing on all cylinders, as the team needed and expected. Centers Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha were filling in the top two lines. Matt Poitras and John Beecher were two rookie centers making a case for themselves to stay on the NHL roster.

Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm showed that the defense was safe in their hands, and the Bruins had a deep pool of depth defensemen to cycle through the bottom pair. Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark continued their dominance – and continued to emit the best of vibes with their goalie hugs.

Hampus Lindholm, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It wasn’t the 16-2-0 the Bruins had to start the 2022-23 season where they set a new NHL record for number of wins in a season (65), but it was almost there, just needing two of those overtime losses to go their way to match that record-setting pace. But a 14-1-3 start is one any team would take, especially the Bruins this season.

With the loss of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, as well as the high-performing, mid-season additions of Tyler Bertuzzi and Dmitri Orlov, people weren’t quite sure what to expect out of the Bruins coming into the 2023-24 season. Playoff hopefuls? Cup contenders? Many critics had them on the bubble, either just missing or just making the playoffs via a wild card spot. Others had them higher up in the division, very few had them as favorites.

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But there they were; 18 games into the season and the Bruins were the best team in the NHL with 31 points.

The Skid

Following their 14th win of the season against the Florida Panthers, the Bruins went into a three-game slide: a 5-2 loss to the Red Wings; a 7-4 loss to the New York Rangers; and a 5-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets left Boston puzzled. They bounced back with three wins in a row against the San Jose Sharks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and some revenge on the Blue Jackets.

Since then, it’s been a game of “every-other:” a loss to the Buffalo Sabres, a win against the Arizona Coyotes, an overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils, a shootout win against the New York Islanders, and an overtime loss to the New York Rangers.

Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There were some defensive lapses; too many turnovers leading to odd-man rushes, and their inability to close out games when the opponents pulled their netminder. There have also been several games where they just seemed to be outskated.

The overtime losses to the Devils and Rangers were of particular concern. They were games the Bruins just couldn’t seem to close out, despite having a wealth of chances to do so. The Rangers, thus far, are the Bruins’ top competitor in the Eastern Conference with an even number of points, 43. The Devils, albeit currently fifth in the Metropolitan Division, seem like a playoff team, even if it is just squeaking into the wild-card spot. They could continue to be a thorn in the Bruins’ side.

RELATED: 3 Takeaways From Bruins’ 2-1 Overtime Loss to Rangers

Injuries have reared their ugly heads too, but since Nov. 24, poor play has seen the Bruins go 5-4-2. That’s not playoff pace.

Bruins 2023-24 Scoring Leaders

Let’s take a look at the Bruins offensive leaders 29 games into the 2023-24 season.

David Pastrnak has 17 goals and 24 assists for a total of 41 points in 29 games so far this season. That’s a pace of roughly 47 goals, 67 assists and 114 points by the end of the regular season. He managed a seven-game point streak during the 14-1-3 explosion at the beginning of the season (along with a four-game point streak to start the year, followed by a three-game point streak).

No. 88 hasn’t shown many lapses in the skid – while his point streaks have ceased, he’s continued to find his way to the scoresheet more often than not.

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Brad Marchand has notched 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points. I was somewhat critical of Marchand to start the year: I felt like he was pretty quiet. When I checked his stance roughly 20 games into the season, I realized he was a point-per-game player.

I think there may be a little bit of truth to that quietness, though. He was overshadowed by Pastrnak’s headline-stealing performances, as well as the narrative at the center position, with Coyle and Zacha holding their own. There have also been the storylines of the new guys, such as Poitras, Beecher and James van Riemsdyk.

Speaking of van Riemsdyk, he’s fourth on the team in point production with six goals and 14 assists in 28 games. Four of those goals and five of those helpers have come on the power play.

James van Riemsdyk, Boston Bruins (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

Coyle is ahead of him, in third, with 10 goals and 11 assists in 29 games. It seems Coyle is living up to his $5.25 million cap hit after being limited to either a bottom-six center or second-line winger last season – but it’s hard to take a top-six center spot from franchise legends Bergeron and Krejci.

Continuing the center conversation, Zacha has eight goals and 11 assists in 26 games. On the blue line, McAvoy follows him with three goals and 14 assists. Both important pieces of the team’s core are now on injured reserve.

Don’t Panic Yet

When a team confronts a below .500 stretch, it often creates a hole they have to dig themselves out of. In their impeccable first 18 games, the Bruins dug themselves a mound. They’re still at the top of the Atlantic Division and are even with the Rangers with 43 points atop the Eastern Conference.

So, while there’s no hole to dig out of, continuing at their recent pace for another 10 or 11-game stretch could lead to one.

The Bruins need to return to their winning ways if they want to maintain their status as a top contender to take the conference. Otherwise, they could find themselves in a situation where their final games of the regular season feel more like the playoffs.

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