Things are really starting to look up for the Boston Bruins right now.
After their 5-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night, they are on a roll as a team and have been playing their best hockey of the season, sitting in a solid playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Their top line players — Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak — are all playing their usual dominant brand of hockey, especially Marchand who has a goal in for straight games, including three straight multi-goal games.
Defensively they are still one of the NHL’s best teams when it comes to suppressing shot attempts and scoring chances. Charlie McAvoy is once again leading the defensive performance with another outstanding season as he continues to be an annual Norris Trophy contender.
They are also getting Tuukka Rask, their longtime franchise goalie, back into the mix after he re-signed on a one-year, $1 million contract on Tuesday. He will make his season debut on Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Put all of that together and there is a lot to be optimistic here for the Bruins. They may not currently be at the same level they have been at in recent seasons when they were one of the clear-cut top teams in the NHL, but they are not all that far off and are starting to play their way back to that point.
But even with everything starting to look really strong at the moment there are still a few things they could use to really bolster their roster for another playoff push and potential Stanley Cup Final run.
The obvious place to look is at second-line center where the Bruins are still trying to replace David Krejci. Scoring depth has been a problem for the Bruins for a couple of years now as they have typically struggled to get much beyond the top line of Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak. They briefly found something at the end of last year with Taylor Hall and Craig Smith playing next to Krejci, but the latter’s departure this offseason took some of that way.
[MORE: Bruins make it official: Tuukka Rask is back on 1-year deal]
Scoring depth was a big problem in the early part of this season. To be fair, that aspect has dramatically improved over the past 10 games or so. For the season the Bruins due have a positive goal differential when their big three (Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak) are off the ice during 5-on-5 play (37-34). That is good, and it has really been boosted over the past 10 games when that number has improved to 15-8. But they could still use an upgrade here, especially at center. Charlie Coyle and Erik Haula have done a fine job, but if the goal is to try and win another championship with this core another impact player at that position would go a long way.
Could they possibly find a way to make another big splash at the trade deadline? Could that solution be lining up across from them on Thursday night?
With the Flyers fading again and looking like a potential seller approaching the trade deadline, Claude Giroux could become available as the season goes on. If the Bruins could figure out a way to make the money work (Giroux’s cap hit is $8.275 million salary cap) and have the Philly captain to waive his no-move clause, he would seemingly be a natural fit to give the Bruins a dominant 1-2 punch down the middle.
The other potential big-game rental down the middle would be San Jose’s Tomas Hertl, whose long-term future with the Sharks remains somewhat in doubt. Though, the Sharks still being in the playoff race could obviously change their plans (and Hertl’s plans) for the rest of this season.
At the present time the Bruins do not have the salary cap space to take on such a contract, but that can always be fixed through another corresponding move and/or retained salary with the team making the trade.
Beyond that, other than some minor tweaks in the bottom-six and on defense there is not really an obvious glaring need that has to be addressed. They are still great defensively as a team, their special teams are both in the top-10 on the power play and penalty kill, they still have a core group of four or five stars at the top of the lineup (Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, McAvoy, Hall), and they now have three capable NHL goalies in Rask, Linus Ullmark, and Jeremy Swayman that are able to contribute. Overall, they are not far off and they have a lot of key ingredients in place to really make another run.