What a difference a week can make in the roller coaster of emotions known as a typical NHL regular season. Last Tuesday, it was revealed that Bruins superstar David Pastrnak (31 goals, 35 assists in 56 games) would miss at least two weeks as he recovered from thumb surgery. Naturally, you would expect Boston to suffer a dip in its play but since then, the opposite has happened: The team has won its first four games without Pastrnak, including a very rare California sweep (Anaheim, Los Angeles, and San Jose) that was completed on Monday with a thrilling 6-5 overtime win against the Sharks thanks to Charlie McAvoy’s game-winning goal.
Suddenly, the Bruins are one of the hottest teams in the NHL as they have collected points in their last 11 games (8-0-3) while goaltender Tuukka Rask is playing some of the best hockey of his NHL career as he rides a 13-game point streak (11-0-2).
Boston has shot up the standings as they now own the second-most points in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the juggernaut Tampa Bay Lightning (45-11-4). The Calgary Flames (36-16-7) — the top team in the Western Conference — is the only other club with more points than the Bruins. The timing of this run by the B’s is ironic since the trade deadline is on Monday afternoon at 3 p.m.
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General manager Don Sweeney is always looking for ways to improve his team for the current season and the future as well, so it’ll be interesting to see if this recent stretch of stellar play changes his focus at all.
Other than Pastrnak, the Bruins have a pretty healthy roster after dealing with injuries to McAvoy, Rask, Patrice Bergeron, and Zdeno Chara, to name a few earlier in this campaign.
Sure, it feels like this is Tampa Bay’s year to win another Stanley Cup, but keep in mind that they’ve been knocking on that door for numerous seasons lately with no such success. Plus, by nature, hockey is much harder to predict than say the NBA where the Warriors can practically plan their lives around being in another NBA Finals come June.
Some of the top NHL reporters (Elliotte Friedman and Darren Dreger) have noted lately that the Bruins’ front office has been sniffing around the likes of forwards Artemi Panarin (Blue Jackets), Mats Zuccarello (Rangers), Wayne Simmonds (Flyers), Tyler Toffoli (Kings), Ryan Dzingel (Senators), and Jeff Carter (Kings).
Clearly, finding a forward to pair with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line has to be Sweeney’s biggest task should he choose to make a reasonably big move.
It’s a tough call as to whether he should mortgage the future to chase a Cup or trust that they can do something with this group moving forward and not make any substantial trade.
It’s a fine line but in my mind, I think the best choice is to trade some of their young prospects that maybe haven’t quite flourished yet for a dependable veteran like Zuccarello. I also think Ottawa Senators right wing Mark Stone (28 goals, 34 assists) would be a great addition. While he might be available, he is Ottawa’s leading scorer and more importantly, an unrestricted free agent on Jul. 1. So the Bruins would have to feel confident that he’d re-sign here before they parted with what it would take to acquire him.
Boston has two more games left on this five-game road trip: at Vegas (32-25-4) on Wednesday (10, NBC Sports) followed by at St. Louis (31-22-5) on Saturday afternoon (4, NESN). Their next home game is Tuesday (7, NESN) vs. San Jose so, at that point, we’ll finally know what they chose to do.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate