Nearly every team experiences a similar scenario at one point or another in the laborious 82-game NHL regular season. It now appears to be Boston’s (20-14-4) appointed time to struggle.
Thanks to a confluence of injuries to key players (David Krejci, David Pastrnak and Adam McQuaid) plus a costly three-game suspension (Brad Marchand), the Bruins have lost five of their last six games following Tuesday’s 3-2 setback to Washington (29-7-3). With their continually vexing home (9-11-2) and road records (11-3-2) fully intact, not to mention the top power play unit in the NHL (28.4 percent), the Bruins remain a very difficult club to figure out.
The B's have a five-game road trip starting on Friday (7 p.m., NESN) at New Jersey (20-15-5) so they will have to recover quickly to hang onto their playoff position (currently eighth-place in the Eastern Conference and fourth-place in the Atlantic Division). Rather than bristle at the difficult task ahead of them, the players seem to relish the opportunity knowing how well the road has treated them so far in 2015-16.
“We simplify our game on the road,” noted defenseman Torey Krug, who had an assist against the Capitals. “It’s always fun to steal points in other buildings.”
After facing the Devils, Boston heads to Ottawa (19-15-6) on Saturday (7 p.m., NESN) to take on a team that they are tied with - although the B’s have played two fewer games thus far. The Bruins beat the Devils, 2-1, in a shootout at the Garden on Dec. 20 and they split a home-and-home with the Senators (losing 3-1 in Ottawa on Dec. 27 and then blitzing them, 7-3, in Boston two nights later). Marchand earned his suspension in that rematch with an illegal check so it’s somewhat ironic that he’ll return to face the Sens. Boston is at Madison Square Garden on Monday (7 p.m., NESN) to face the Rangers (22-14-4) before traveling to Philadelphia (16-15-7) on Wednesday (8 p.m., NBCSN) and wrapping things up in Buffalo (15-21-4) on Friday (7 p.m., NESN). The Bruins and Rangers played a thrilling game the day after Thanksgiving (a 4-3 Boston win) and although the Flyers and Sabres are the two weak links of this trip, they both already own a victory over the B’s this season.
It’s not hard to figure out why the Bruins have played so poorly of late: in those five most recent losses, they have combined to score a total of just seven goals. Getting Marchand back in the lineup should clearly help but many players talked about getting to the net more and creating traffic. That was something that they didn’t do enough of against Washington’s Braden Holtby (25 saves) who has been the league’s best goaltender this season.
“We are still right there in the standings,” explained right wing Loui Eriksson, who scored a goal against Washington. “We have to get points on the road and start climbing up.”