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Murphy: Have Bruins Been Playing With House Money?

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Boston Bruins

Have the Boston Bruins been playing with house money?

If they have, the chips are surely running out right now, and we’re about to see if what so many expected to be a reset or retool season was just that. The Boston Bruins players are about to find out what the actual plan of the team brass for this season really was, and it could be a hard reality to accept. Even harder than what they’re going through as they enter the final game of a seven-game homestand that’s seen them go just 1-3-2. In the process, they relinquished their 119-day hold on first place in the Atlantic division, as well as the lead in the Eastern Conference, to the Florida Panthers.

That happened on Thursday night as a result of a 4-1 Bruins loss to the Seattle Kraken and a 4-0 win over the Sabres by the Panthers. Somehow, though, it got even worse on a Nationally televised game (ABC, ESPN+) against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday afternoon. Sure, given last season, when the record-breaking President’s Trophy winners still lost in seven games to the Panthers, staying in first place in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference didn’t mean as much to the Bruins as it did a year ago.

Bruins fans were absolutely right to point that out after the loss to the Kraken and into the 12:30 p.m. ET puck drop for the second-straight Saturday matinee at TD Garden on Saturday. However, after they watched their team blow two third period leads and lose 5-4 in overtime to the Kings, they might have been feeling Déjà vu.

Let’s face it: this Bruins’ homestand has felt a lot like that infamous first round series loss to the Panthers, who, by the way, smoked the Tampa Bay Lightning 9-2 on Saturday. Just as they did as they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Panthers, the Bruins know what’s wrong, but they’re playing like that slow-motion train wreck, and they can’t stop it.

“We added to our problems today,” an exasperated Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said in the post-game presser on Saturday.

“We had breakdowns that shouldn’t be happening within our structure, and then also game management. You got to close out a game. You’re up twice in the third period, and you don’t close it out. And then in overtime, our power play has got to put it away.”

Instead, the guilty party for the Kings, rookie defenseman Brandt Clarke, set off out of the penalty box on a breakaway and scored the overtime winner with 29 seconds left. As he set off on what many believe will be a brilliant career, the 2023-24 Boston Bruins were left wondering what they are and what the Bruins team brass is willing to let them be.

“The Bruins are what we thought they were, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is what it is,” an NHL team source opined to Boston Hockey Now on Saturday. “They’re not the only ones. There’s a lot of teams in that position. Do we go for it even though that wasn’t necessarily the plan?”

Calgary Flames assistant General Manager and Senior Advisor to the GM Dave Nonis has scouted the Bruins at TD Garden for the last three games. The Bruins and Flames have been linked in NHL trade chatter all season. Is there an impact trade to be made between the two teams and the bigger question is, are Sweeney and Neely willing to make it?

That’s the dilemma Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and team president Cam Neely face right now. Do they let their current roster, which surprised everyone and finished the first half atop the Eastern Conference, level off and try to get lucky with some depth moves? Or do they reward a team that is running out of gas but, with an impact trade, could make some noise in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs?

There are pros and cons for either decision, but it’s just another example of the tightrope every NHL GM is walking right now.

 

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