If there’s been a consistent gripe about the Boston Bruins over the last few years, it’s that they haven’t always been ideally built for the heavy battles that come in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Too small up front or not stout enough on defense, and certainly not enough nasty characters at either spot with tons of offensive skill up and down the NHL roster.
So the breaking news on Thursday night that the Boston Bruins had traded for defenseman Dmitry Orlov and winger Garnet Hathaway while sending Craig Smith to the Washington Capitals along with a trio of draft picks, most notably their 2023 first round pick, was nothing short of a home run for the Black and Gold. They secured a 31-year-old Stanley Cup champion defensemen that can play either side, is coming off his most productive NHL season where he posted 12 goals and 35 points and plays with some thump as Kevan Miller found in Boston’s playoff series against the Capitals a couple of seasons ago.
Dmitry Orlov with a dangerous hit on Kevan Miller. pic.twitter.com/UFxCQi2KrW
— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 21, 2021
Hathaway is also no stranger to Boston Bruins fans with the physicality and nastiness that he brings to the table as a 6-foot-3, 200-pound forward that has pounded B’s skaters like Brad Marchand in the recent past.
— Boston Sports Gordo (@BOSSportsGordo) January 21, 2022
The Kennebunk, Maine native is also coming off a career-best 14 goals and 26 points last season, and has consistently been a player that’s difficult to play against over the course of his career with the Capitals and Calgary Flames.
To put it bluntly, both players make the Boston Bruins a much bigger pain in the ass to play against than they’d already been this season. And that hasn’t been the case enough when things turn nastier, heavier and more physical in the hockey postseason.
“We were trying to attack in two different areas and I think both Dmitry and Garnet bring some attributes that will complement our group,” said Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney. “So hope we stay healthy and try to take a run and play our best hockey at the most important times. It’s a hard path to get in [to the playoffs] and it’s an even harder path to go on a run.
“Dmitry has a Stanley Cup ring and brings a lot of veteran leadership to our group and plays in all different situations. Garnet is a hard-nosed guy that’s going to be wired the way we use our bottom-6 in trying to create some anxiety on the forecheck. He can disrupt, he kills penalties and he’s got a bigger body and frame. They’re both excited to be joining our team.”
This deal blows away any rumored pursuit of Columbus defenseman Vladislav Gavrinkov and the reasonable rumors surrounding Boston interest in Blues forward Ivan Barbashev. These are both better players and certainly better fits for the current Boston Bruins roster.
The only downside with both players is that they are straight rental acquisitions at the trade’s outset, even if there would seem to be designs on keeping a New Englander like Hathaway around the Black and Gold fold beyond this season.
But it’s clear to everybody that Hathaway and Orlov up the nastiness factor for the Boston Bruins and are going to help the B’s create even more “anxiety” in opponents than they have while storming out to a 43-8-5 record this season.
“They’re both ‘identity’ type players,” said Sweeney. “When push comes to shove, we’re just going to put our best lineup together. I think this group understands that we were in this to try and deepen what our team looks like. I think we’re in a really good spot because our team has played that well, and we’re trying to reward [that team].
“That’s the chase. We’re in to try and win. You’ve got to qualify and then go from there. We really like our team. Hopefully we’re going to stay healthy, and we’ll monitor. We’ve got eight more days to sort of see, but for the most part we feel comfortable that we’ve added to our and it’s time for these guys to continue to do what they’ve set out to do and have a special year.”
Instead, this feels like a Boston Bruins team that is loading up with everything they’ve got to try and win one more Stanley Cup for 37-year-old Patrice Bergeron and 36-year-old David Krejci after they each returned this season for one more year. Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney had no qualms about saying this blockbuster trade reflected a “reward” for a team that’s looked like a Cup favorite from the very opening weeks of the regular season.
Now, it comes down to some of the nitty gritty details.
Like, how is Orlov going to fit into a defensemen group that’s been very good this season and has an established set of three pairs where somebody is going to be an odd man out. Certainly, there have been injury problems with Matt Grzelcyk and Brandon Carlo in past postseasons and Orlov’s presence will be insurance for anything befalling either blueliner.
But until the injury bug hits, it’s going to be challenging for Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery to manage a situation where there are seven quality NHL defensemen competing for six spots on a nightly basis.
It’s a little more cut-and-dry at forward where Hathaway will fit into the current forward group and most likely relegate Tomas Nosek or AJ Greer to the press box if everybody is healthy.
The bottom line for the Boston Bruins: Don Sweeney and the Bruins front office have crushed another NHL trade deadline and brought in quality, impactful players that are going to help Boston’s cause this postseason. Two years ago it was Taylor Hall, last season it was Hampus Lindholm and this season it is Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway.
That’s an incredibly productive performance by the Boston Bruins overall, and exactly what this season’s powerhouse hockey team needed with a very realistic Stanley Cup chance in their grasp.