Injured Boston Bruins team off to a shaky start in December

OTTAWA, ON - DECEMBER 09: Boston Bruins Winger Gemel Smith (28) battles Ottawa Senators Defenceman Maxime Lajoie (58) in front of Ottawa Senators Goalie Mike McKenna (33) during third period National Hockey League action between the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators on December 9, 2018, at Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, ON, Canada. (Photo by Richard A. Whittaker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins are 2-3 in their first five games of the month. The first day into December, the Bruins played the Detroit Red Wings at home — a team outside of the playoff bubble. They lost their first of three straight to Detroit, also falling to the Florida Panthers in a dismal 5-0 game and to the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2. The injured Boston Bruins team did not start the month the way they needed it to.

Injured Boston Bruins team off to a shaky start in December

Bruins add Smith

Since the game against Tampa Bay, the Bruins have tried to adjust. Realizing a lack of depth at centre, the Bruins picked up Gemel Smith from the Dallas Stars, who had two goals and an assist in 14 games for Dallas.

Smith only played 77 games for the Stars in three years. The transaction certainly doesn’t fill exactly what the Bruins needed at centre without Patrice Bergeron as Smith only has 11 career goals and won an average of 44.6 percent of face-offs taken.

Smith only registered two shots in his debut for the Bruins against the Toronto Maple Leafs and only played 11:40. In the Bruins game against Toronto, they continued to be the Canadian team’s weakness and cruised to a 6-3 win with a few of their opponents’ goals coming in the late minutes of the game.

The Bruins also won a 2-1 game against the Ottawa Senators — a game they needed to win against a team that players around the league are identifying as a self-destructive organization. That game was much more than just two points in the standings.

McAvoy Returns

During the early days of the month, the Bruins also reactivated defenseman Charlie McAvoy from injured reserve. In the game against Toronto, Zach Hyman hit him late and gave the team a scare as he went down when the game was already 6-2. McAvoy returned to the bench but didn’t play for the rest of the game.

Hyman was fined and suspended for the hit and McAvoy dressed in the game against Ottawa and totalled 21:16 of ice time.

The schedule ahead

The Bruins have a difficult schedule in front of them. They are still without their captain Zdeno Chara and alternate captain Bergeron — two clear leaders of the team.

They will first face the Arizona Coyotes who, despite their reputation, have recently been playing well. They rode a four-game win streak from November 27th to December 4th but are looking to turn around a two-game skid in their game at TD Garden.

Following that, the Bruins have the ever-dangerous Pittsburgh Penguins. While the Pens aren’t at the top of the Metropolitan Division, they are still an excellent team with talented players.

The Bruins play the Buffalo Sabres twice this month, and while they beat them 4-0 the last time the two met, the Sabres have been known to shock Boston. The Sabres team is different this year and are currently higher in the standings than the Bruins, which is an irregular sight for those who keep a close eye on the Atlantic Division.

The Fight for the Net Continues

After a bad start to the season for Tuukka Rask, the Finnish goaltender is back in his Vezina-winning form recently. The Bruins goalie is working toward shaving off some decimals in his 2.50 goals-against-average and has a .917 save percentage but is performing at the level Bruins fans have wanted him to be at all season.

Opposite Rask, Jaroslav Halak had a strong start to the season and has only recently begun to waiver. He lost two straight games before earning the 6-3 win over Toronto and has a 2.30 goals-against-average and .930 save percentage in 17 games.

What’s Next for Boston

The Bruins face three Western Conference teams in their next six games which will give them room to work on lines in the absence of Chara and Bergeron. These games will let them find a good place for Smith and work McAvoy back into his leadership role on the team.

Right now, the Bruins are in the first Wild Card spot and need to catch the Sabres who are in third in the Atlantic. The Bruins will have to prove that their injured team is still good enough to take and hold a top spot in the division over the next couple of games.

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