After Sunday’s 4-3 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues, the Boston Bruins now have just five games left in the regular season.
They already know they’ve won the Presidents’ Trophy, giving them home ice throughout the playoffs. There are still some other questions left to answer, though. With a few days off until their next game on Thursday, when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs, let’s take a look at five of them.
Bruins move closer to history with weekend sweep of Penguins, Blues
1. Will they break the wins and/or points records?
The Bruins have made it clear all season that their only goal is to win the Stanley Cup, and that they are not prioritizing regular-season records. They are not going to go all-out to try to break any of them, as evidenced by the fact that they have rested stars like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm recently.
They’re still trying to win every game, though, regardless of who’s in the lineup. And breaking the NHL records for wins and/or points would still be a nice feather in their cap, even if it’s relatively unimportant compared to their ultimate goal.
Sunday was the Bruins’ 60th win of the season. They are just the fourth team in NHL history to win that many games in a season, joining the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens, 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. The Wings and Lightning co-own the record of 62 wins, so the Bruins just need to win two of their final five games to tie the record and three to break it.
The Bruins now have 125 points, which is the sixth-most ever. That 1976-77 Habs team holds the record of 132, so the Bruins need to grab seven of a possible 10 remaining points to tie, eight to break.
There are some caveats here. That Habs team played an 80-game schedule, not the current 82. And there was no overtime or shootout back then, so their 12 ties likely would have turned into more wins and points under the current format. The 1995-96 Wings had overtime, but no shootouts; they finished with seven ties.
Points percentage is probably the fairest way to judge across eras and formats, and there the 1929-30 Bruins’ .875 mark in a 44-game season remains untouchable. The 76-77 Habs own the best post-expansion mark at .825. This year’s Bruins currently own the second-best record post-expansion at .812, but they cannot catch that legendary Montreal team. Even if Boston wins out, it would finish just short at .823.
2. Will David Pastrnak get to 60?
It looked like 60 goals was slipping out of David Pastrnak’s reach, but then he scored seven goals in a four-game stretch that culminated in Saturday’s hat trick against Pittsburgh. Now he’s sitting at 56 with five games to go.
Mathematically, based on his season-long pace, Pastrnak is on pace to finish with 59.6 goals. So, this could be close. This past week has been a reminder of how quickly Pastrnak can pile up goals when he gets hot, and he’s hot right now despite not scoring on Sunday (he did still have an assist).
Of course, there’s also the question of whether Pastrnak will get a rest game at some point, like most of the Bruins’ other top players have gotten. Through Sunday, Pastrnak, Pavel Zacha and Charlie Coyle are the only three Bruins who have played in every game this season.
As with the team records, 60 goals is not what Pastrnak cares about most. But, it would be a remarkable accomplishment. Phil Esposito is the only Bruin who has achieved the feat, and there are only 22 players in NHL history who have done it.
3. Can Brad Marchand get going?
While Pastrnak has caught fire down the stretch, the same can’t be said for the Bruins’ second-leading scorer. Marchand has now gone 13 games without a goal, his longest goal-scoring drought since 2015. He does have eight assists during this stretch, but the lack of goals is obviously a bit concerning.
Marchand has been open about not feeling quite as good as he expected after offseason double hip surgery, but he has still had plenty of more productive stretches this season. He told Matt Porter of the Boston Globe after Sunday’s game that he doesn’t want or expect to get any games off down the stretch, preferring instead to keep playing so he can get his game closer to where he expects it.
With three days off to start this week and another three off between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs, there are a couple built-in breaks for Marchand and everyone else even if he does play the final five games.
If he’s not banged up enough to need a game off, then keeping Marchand in the lineup seems reasonable enough. His recent struggles could be more mental than physical, and playing through them may very well be the best way to get him back on track in time for the playoffs.
4. What does the top power-play unit look like?
We did a deeper dive on this over the weekend that you can read here, but the crux of it is this: Over the past week, the power-play unit of David Pastrnak, Pavel Zacha, David Krejci, Charlie McAvoy and Tyler Bertuzzi has looked better than anything else the Bruins have done on the power play in months.
Before Bruins coach Jim Montgomery put that unit together -- partly due to Patrice Bergeron getting a few rest games, partly to get Pastrnak more power-play time, and partly just to try something different -- the Bruins had the second-worst power play in the league over a two-month stretch.
Given how desperate the Bruins have been to find anything that works on the power play, it would stand to reason that Montgomery might want to give this so-called “Czech unit” a longer look. The problem with making them the new PP1 is that it would mean demoting Bergeron and Marchand to the second power-play unit, which seems almost unthinkable given how much power-play success they’ve had for so many years prior to these last couple months.
Would Montgomery really make such a move? We might find out in these next five games.
5. Will any of the injured players return for regular-season action?
We’re talking about Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno and Derek Forbort here. Let’s start with the most unlikely to return in these next five games: Forbort. The rugged defenseman, who has been out since March 16 with a lower-body injury, had not yet started skating as of late last week, and Montgomery has been steadfast in saying that he’s not expected to return until the playoffs.
Hall and Foligno, also recovering from lower-body injuries, appear to be closer. Both have been skating with the team in no-contact jerseys, Hall beginning nearly two weeks ago and Foligno beginning last week. There is still no official timetable for their returns, and Montgomery has denied a TSN report that Hall is already ready, but it doesn’t seem out of the question that one or both could get back into the lineup at some point over this final week and a half of the regular season. There are ways for the Bruins to make the financials work if they want to activate Hall off long-term injured reserve.
If they do, how does it affect the lineup? If Montgomery wants to take a look at a Hall-Charlie Coyle-Tyler Bertuzzi third line, a little bit of regular-season action would be welcome rather than trying it for the first time in the playoffs. That would presumably bump Trent Frederic down to the fourth line and send both Jakub Lauko and A.J. Greer to the bench. And then who else sits once Foligno, a fourth-line mainstay all season when he was healthy, is ready?
All this depth is a great problem to have, but it nonetheless creates a logjam that Montgomery will have to figure out with little time left to experiment before the playoffs.