By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
For those Bruins fans who thought that the torrid start from largely the same club that dropped the Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues in Game 7 at the TD Garden last June would continue unchecked by reality for the foreseeable future, the last three games that head coach Bruce Cassidy’s crew has shown varying degrees of sloppy play is a much-needed wakeup call.
There is no doubt that the boys in Black and Gold that finished the season last spring with their championship aspirations – not to mention their bodies – battered and bruised while the Blues hoisted the Cup in their home barn on Causeway Street started this current campaign with a mission of redemption in mind.
Yet, even the most bitter taste in the mouths of those who experienced such disappointing results as the B’s did just months ago, loses its sting when the grind of the 82-game NHL season sets in.
Over the last three games in which they disappeared in the second period in a 6-4 home win against the Penguins, the 5-4 loss in Montreal against the Canadiens – where they were once again jobbed by a borderline offsides call in video review – and the absolute no-show that they had in Detroit in the 4-2 loss against a simply bad Red Wings team on Friday night, it just a sign that no matter how much of a chip you have on your shoulder in September, the unceasing schedule of the league will find a way to sand it down eventually.
And while they have begun to get some secondary scoring with the return of David Krejci, the callup of Anders Bjork, and the occasional contributions from the now banged-up Jake DeBrusk and an odd chip in from the Danton Heinen’s on their roster, the truth is that the early success of this latest version of the Bruins has come largely from the play of five key cogs.
David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, Patrice Bergeron, and Torey Krug. In descending order, it is hard to argue that has been the case.
As stated in this space before, no one in their right mind doesn’t consider the club that general manager Don Sweeney essentially returned from last season isn’t a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. While there will be those who can’t let go of the Rask ripping that frankly seems pretty petty after his performance in the playoffs last spring, Sweeney has the best line in hockey, a top-five netminder and depth at defense that almost any other GM in the NHL likely looks at in envy.
Even so, his roster still has the same holes it had last June – and perhaps more – than the one that soberingly saw an overwhelming underdog beat them in the Final.
To think the extraordinarily high level of play that their top line produced and the otherworldly save percentage that Rask posted through the first month of this year could continue unchecked, was simply the stuff of fairytales. The ebbs and flows of the NHL season take their toll on every player, just as they have on the Bruins best this last week.
The last few games have proven what most who watch this team closely have known since they depressingly departed the Garden ice last June. Their high-end talent matches up with what any other team in the league can offer – if not surpasses it – it is the depth on offense that Sweeney can assemble between now and the start of the NHL’s second season in April, that will ultimately decide the fate of his team.