Like the Red Sox and Patriots before them the Bruins have conquered Southern California.
A 3-0 win at Anaheim on Friday and a 4-2 victory at Los Angeles on Saturday proved the Bruins are, at the very least, better than two lottery-bound SoCal teams that are long past their glory years.
Boston has won five in a row and has a 10-game point streak (7-0-3). Eight of those 10 games, mostly against teams that won’t be in the Stanley Cup playoffs come April, have been decided by one goal.
The Bruins’ recent success, though, should not change general manager Don Sweeney’s approach to the Feb. 25 trade deadline anymore than David Pastrnak’s injury changed it.
The Bruins are a strong defensive team with all-world goaltending and impressive structure that the players adhere too studiously. There’s still not enough scoring in this lineup to make the type of playoff run that will be an improvement on last year’s second-round ouster.
Jake DeBrusk’s gotten a hot hand and the line of Sean Kuraly, Noel Acciari and Chris Wagner has begun to provide the type of offense that, combined with its defense, could make them a viable playoff third line, but Boston still lacks the experienced top-six wing and fourth-line center it needs to have a legitimate chance of getting out of the Atlantic Division.
The likely suspects – everyone from Columbus’ Artemi Panarin to Philadelphia's Wayne Simmonds to Ottawa’s Mark Stone and the New York Rangers’ Mats Zuccarello – are still available, as their respective teams are still trying to decide exactly what to do about their rentals. The biggest trades may not be made until near the 3 p.m. deadline next Monday, so for now it’s understandable that Sweeney hasn’t pulled the trigger. Prices will drop in the next eight days, and Sweeney doesn’t want to get caught overpaying, especially if someone better were to become available after he makes a deal. Sweeney is wise to be patient.
And if the Bruins’ recent play has told us anything, it’s that they may not have to make a drastic upgrade to close the gap on the teams ahead of them in the standings. So if prices remain high for the premium rentals, they can add one or two second-tier players that, once added to Boston’s strong core, may be able to elevate their games.
Here are a few other thoughts after the successful first two games of the Bruins’ five-game road trip:
Miller’s become an important performer for the Bruins on defense and it would really set them back if he got injured. But he’s obviously always going to have the mindset of someone that has to do everything possible to benefit the team and stay in the NHL.