Every NHL season is a grind and the Bruins (26-15-5) are well aware of that fact now over halfway through the 2018-19 campaign.
They currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind the Toronto Maple Leafs (28-15-2) and a whopping 15 points behind the Tampa Bay Lightning(35-9-2)— who is by far the best team in hockey.
The standings directly under them are jumbled as well with the Montreal Canadiens (25-17-5) fresh off a 3-2 overtime win at TD Garden on Monday only trailing the B’s by one point (Boston has a game in hand on them).
Finally, Buffalo (23-17-6) has stumbled lately (3-6-1 in its last 10 games) so they sat two points behind the New York Islanders for the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference entering Tuesday night.
This logjam does not figure to let up the rest of the way which is why it’s incumbent on the Bruins to stack up wins when the calendar appears to be in their favor.
With only three more games left before their bye week which is followed by the NHL All-Star break, Boston has a great opportunity to beat up on some bad teams, which is all that they’ll see for the rest of this week.
They are at the Philadelphia Flyers — the third worst team in the league — tonight (7:30, NESN) followed by a back-to-back with the lowly Blues coming to the Garden on Thursday (7, NESN).
This is all capped off by a visit from the rebuilding Rangers — led by former BU head coach Jack Quinn — on Saturday night (7, NESN).
Boston is 6-3-1 in its last 10 games but the loss to Montreal and last Thursday’s 4-2 setback to the Capitals have both followed a familiar script: Outshoot the opponent and dominate for long stretches of time yet end up on the wrong side of the final score.
Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller had an epic fight against Montreal’s Nicolas Deslauriers on Monday and he noted the need for a more complete effort by his team.
“We need to build our own game, I think that we need to work on a few things,” said Miller. “We need to be better, 60 minutes, that’s what we preach every game. We want to play for 60 minutes, I don’t think that we did that well tonight.”
The Bruins are 10-9-4 on the road and 16-6-1 at home so they’ll want to become a better road team since they’ll have to win games away from the Garden down the stretch and in the playoffs to go anywhere.
It would also help if they stopped allowing so many shorthanded goals (an NHL-worst 10 and counting), a season-long issue that has plagued them and popped up again against the Canadiens as Paul Byron made it 2-1 late in the second period with a breakaway that ended with a backhander past goaltender Tuukka Rask.
Other than veteran winger Joakim Nordstrom who is still out with a broken leg, this is as healthy as Boston has been all season so barring any trades, this will be their roster going forward. They finished 3-1 vs. Buffalo and Toronto while Montreal’s overtime win means that the B’s were 2-1-1 against them.