By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Just when they were beginning to build a bandwagon for the hockey fans of New England to hop on to with their play under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins lose three in a row – the last two to division opponents whom they are jockeying for playoff positioning – leaving many B’s fans to wonder if the wheels are once again coming off down the stretch.
And while the feeling surrounding the team is much more positive than it has been the last two years, when the squad seemingly quit on former head coach Claude Julien, the losses against potential playoff teams – specifically the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators most recently – are bitter pills to swallow no matter how hotly they were contested.
For those who are looking to hedge their bets on the Bruins making the playoffs, let’s take a look at what the odds makers/stat geeks are saying.
Prior to the pivotal two game stretch against division foes that saw the B’s come away pointless, Perry Port of MyTopSportsbooks.com has them already as a 3/7 underdog, citing their difficult schedule down the stretch. That was before the Bruins were beaten by their two Atlantic Division rivals.
However, if trending is your thing, SportsClubStats.com saw the team’s chances of making the NHL’s second season spike after the coaching change was made behind the Boston bench. From a season low of around a 25% chance in late January/early February, the B’s chances climbed as high as 80% before the recent three-game losing streak; and currently they sit at around 75%, in a virtual tie with Toronto.
A glance at the Playoff Probabilities Report on Hockey-Reference.com, shows the numbers are in line with the previous mentioned site, sitting at a 78% likelihood that playoff hockey with return to TD Garden – at least for a brief time – this spring.
Regardless of what the bookmakers and statisticians have to say, the numbers that matter most now are on the scoreboard; and even though the games remaining on their schedule look daunting, the Bruins likely need to find a way to make the numbers go their way in at least five or six of the nine remaining in order to make it to the dance.
While the effort has been there from Cassidy’s clan, the worrisome lack of finish has shown its ugly head once again, especially in the losses to the Leafs and the Sens. In the month of March, the secondary scoring has dropped off considerably from the bounce the team saw after Julien’s firing.
Ryan Spooner – post concussion – has been invisible. The fledgling future scorer Frank Vatrano, hasn’t found the back of the net all month; and deadline acquisition Drew Stafford has cooled down after a hot start with his new club.
Cassidy has recently tried to inject some life into the bust that is Matt Beleskey by putting him on David Krejci’s wing, but that has been about as fruitful as a New England apple tree in February. Nevertheless, this flawed roster has shown that they are capable of playing at a higher level than they were when they got their coach fired last month, now they need to do it against the caliber of teams they could potentially see in the playoffs.
Prognosticators and percentage pushers aside, the Bruins fate ultimately still remains in their own hands. Unfortunately, as of late, those hands have been grinding their composite sticks into dust when faced with an opportunity to score.
The odds say that the B’s should make the playoffs, but their play in the final nine games of their season is the only thing that matters now.