It may seem like a significant amount of NHL regular season remains for the Boston Bruins, but in truth there will be a month left to go after their game against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night. The Bruins are in the stretch run of the season with just 20 games left to play and a five-point cushion for the Stanley Cup playoffs with games in hand against the Flyers and Rangers.
The Bruins have seemingly heeded the urgency with a 5-2-3 record over their last 10 games as their best players have clearly upped their game. But that also means that the rest of the Bruins group needs to up their intensity, up their execution and up their willingness to do what it takes to win hockey games, and if they don’t then they won’t be playing.
That’s been the message over the last few games as Zach Senyshyn was benched two games ago and ultimately replaced by Chris Wagner in the Boston Bruins lineup. And, similarly, Jakub Zboril was benched for portions of Tuesday night’s 4-2 win over the Flyers where the Bruins played a dreadful second period giving up 25 shots on net in Jeremy Swayman’s victorious NHL debut.
It seems that spoon-feeding the young Bruins players is over with the postseason right around the corner, and that’s the message Bruce Cassidy sent to the players during the second intermission at Wells Fargo Center.
“It was about this young guy going into his first NHL game and basically standing on his head to keep us in the game. The guys that have NHL talent need to provide NHL effort with that talent in the checking game and managing pucks,” said Cassidy. “And the guys that don’t have quite that level of NHL talent really need to work on their execution and make good reads and decisions. We’re asking for a little more of both from each category that the player falls into.
“I thought we got it [in the third period]. We certainly got it from [Jeremy] Lauzon on the shorthanded goal as he made a heck of a play. We shortened the bench a little for the guys that were willing to check and manage pucks and play the right way to help our goaltender. And it worked out for us.”
The presence of Chris Wagner in the final minute with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand while protecting the lead Tuesday night spoke volumes about that player after he’d consistently been a healthy scratch for the last few weeks. The message was simple: The audition period is over for young guys like Senyshyn, Oskar Steen and Jack Studnicka down the stretch, and the Bruins need to go with the proven players that are going to help them win.
It worked as the Bruins scored a pair of goals and won the game while pushing down the Flyers team chasing them in the standings.
But it’s clear at this point there are some players on the B’s roster that Cassidy feels like he can’t use during crunch and that’s going to spell doom in the postseason. So, it’s up to Boston Bruins management to bring in some players that can help as the Bruins have a clear offensive problem, and obvious needs for upgrades on the back end.
The Bruins watched one prized target, Kyle Palmieri, go off the board on Wednesday when he went to the top team in Boston’s division, and gave the Islanders another player that’s presented the B’s with problems in the past. It’s clear by the coach’s words and the performance on the ice that they can’t afford to wait much longer before pulling the trigger on deals to bring in more NHL-caliber players when it comes to performance, effort and execution.