A coaching change in February seemed like it might be the impetus that the Boston Bruins needed in order to avoid missing the post-season for the third year in a row, but a lack of ability to finish in important games has left the Bruins in dire straits as the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs approach, leaving their chances of making a playoff spot slimmer by the day.
Bruins in Dire Straits
Despite the stellar performances from players like Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Tuukka Rask, there continues to be a lack of offensive power. Players like Matt Beleskey and David Backes, added to the team for their goal-scoring abilities, have not shown as much production as was expected. Young players like Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano, who are known for their skill and shooting abilities, continue to be underutilized by coach Bruce Cassidy. This complaint was also frequent under the tenure of previous coach Claude Julien, who was let go in February (to the point that Spooner himself expressed frustration about his relationship with Julien).
Players continue to take bad penalties, leading to scoring opportunities for opponents that should not be happening, particularly the interference call against Dominic Moore in the last three minutes of the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which cost Boston the game when a power play goal was scored. Rask’s save percentage has dipped to .890 in the last nine games, and it can be said that the lack of a strong back-up has put a lot of burden on the goaltender, who took a maintenance day on Friday after a tough loss Thursday night.
The team had initial success under Cassidy, with a 12-3 record in the first fifteen games, but it appears that the “honeymoon period” is over. The team has dropped their last four games, including important meetings against Atlantic Division rivals Toronto, Ottawa, and Tampa. Currently, they are out of a playoff position, trailing the New York Islanders for the second wildcard spot in the Eastern conference with 81 points in 74 games. The Bruins next play a must-win game against the Islanders on Saturday, March 25th at 7pm.
Boston Bruins Sign Ryan Fitzgerald and Emil Johansson
The addition of Ryan Fitzgerald and Emil Johansson, who both signed entry level contracts on Friday, will bolster the strength of the AHL’s Providence Bruins, whom they will join as soon as possible on amateur and professional tryouts, respectively. Fitzgerald, a North Reading native chosen by Boston in the fourth round of the 2013 entry draft, scored 31 points in 34 games played with Boston College this year. Johansson, a seventh round pick in the 2014 draft, completed his first season with Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League with 17 points in 49 games.
BOSTON, MA – JANUARY 20: Patrice Bergeron #37 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period against the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden on January 20, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Blackhawks defeat the Bruins 1-0. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)