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Murphy: Can The Bruins Bounce Back On The Road?



Boston Bruins

The Boston Bruins snapped a four-game winless streak with a 4-3 shootout win over the Dallas Stars on Monday, but they’re far from back on track.

That win left the Boston Bruins at 2-3-2 on what proved to be a frustrating, eye-opening, and potentially foreshadowing homestand. The Bruins now begin a four-game road trip out west when they play Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and the Oilers tonight (10 p.m. ET, TNT, MAX) in Edmonton.

Here’s an observation on the state of the team and what the team could look like when the Bruins take to the ice at TD Garden again on Feb. 29 and host the Vegas Golden Knights:

Bruins Defense Needs To Tighten Up Again

If the Bruins are to turn things around on this four-game roadie, they can’t go into prevent defense and lean too heavily on goalies Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark. The Bruins were out-shot 35-32 in their 5-4 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday and then 46-30 inn the win over the Stars on Monday. If not for Swayman on Monday, the Bruins wouldn’t even get a point, in this puck scribe’s opinion. As expected, both Swayman and Ullmark have come back down to earth after the 2023 Jennings Trophy winners got off to a torrid start. Unfortunately, during the first half of the season, the Bruins relied on the 2023 Vezina Trophy winner and his hugging partner way too much.

Now, it appears as if they’re struggling to realize they can’t always use that safety valve. They will find that out in a hurry on this trip against two high-octane offenses like the Oilers tonight and the Canucks on Saturday.  The team defense needs to tighten up fast and stay that way if the Bruins hope to have a successful road trip. The problem now, though, is that the Bruins could be without Hampus Lindholm for a bit after he suffered an undisclosed injury on Monday. Bruins fans can criticize Lindholm’s noticeable offensive decline this season, but he has still been stout in his own end. The stats and The Eye Test both prove it. Can Mason Lohrei be better defensively in his third stint in the NHL this season?

Will Sweeney Make A Trade On The Trip?

Speaking of defense, the Boston Bruins continue to be linked to Calgary Flames defenseman and Norwood, MA native Noah Hanifin. In his weekly appearance on Sportsnet’s ‘Saturday Headlines,’ Sportsnet NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman reported that while neither player nor team had confirmed it yet, all of the intel he gathered pointed towards the 27-year-old Norwood, MA native becoming a UFA next July. Then, on Tuesday night, TSN Insider Chris Johnston had this update on the former Boston College defenseman:

“The (Calgary) Flames have made a concerted effort to sign the pending unrestricted free-agent defenceman,” Johnston said on the latest TSN NHL Insider Trading. “And they may still have another push to try to get that done. But with a little bit more than two weeks to go before the deadline, it’s seeming increasingly likely that the 27-year-old defenceman will be moved elsewhere. He’s got some say in the matter. He’s got eight teams on a no-trade clause – a limited no-trade clause. I’m told that they’re not all Canadian teams and that there’s maybe an open destination there. But the feeling is he’s going to end up south of the border because it is believed to be his preference to sign his next contract somewhere in the U.S. As we look for destinations where he might land, there’s a number of teams with interest, but keep your eye on the Tampa Bay Lightning. They’re always the stealth operators at the deadline, and they’re believed to be looking at him with Mikhail Sergachev out injured.”

Sources have told yours truly that in addition to the Bruins still being in on Hanifin, the Florida Panthers are expected to join the NHL trade sweepstakes for him ahead of the March 8 NHL Trade Deadline. So now it appears that there is an Atlantic Division arms race starting up. Will Sweeney strike first on Hanifin or another defenseman? What about a winger? Sweeney has made some notable trades on this February trip out west (Charlie Coyle in 2019 comes to mind), so don’t be surprised if the Bruins come back home with a different roster.


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