The Boston Bruins have been locked in mediocrity over the past two seasons and the hope for them to make a major playoff run is not as strong as it once was. The 2015-16 Bruins team is good enough to make the playoffs. Similar to last season, they’ll probably be fighting for a spot during the last week of the season. Unlike the NBA, just getting in the playoffs matters in the NHL. There are 16 teams that qualify and there are 16 teams that have a true chance to win the Stanley Cup. It’s a league where teams at the bottom of the playoff seeding have won frequently. Where you finish doesn’t matter much as long as you’re in. While they’re a team with flaws, the Bruins have a shot.
So, how can the Bruins contend this year? Their defense is weak. Zdeno Chara is no longer the player he once was. Torey Krug can’t handle being a top 2 defenseman. Kevan Miller and Colin Miller have underperformed. On a positive note, the Bruins three core forwards are all playing very well. Brad Marchand has been outstanding. He’s on pace for 41 goals. Who would have thought five years ago that Brad Marchand would be a much better player than Milan Lucic? Patrice Bergeron continues to be excellent on both ends of the ice. He could be on his way to another Selke Trophy while also finishing in the top 20 in scoring. He currently ranks 17th with 45 points in 53 games. If the Bruins were one of the top teams in the league, Bergeron would likely be getting Hart Trophy consideration as the league’s best player. David Krecji has been David Krejci. He’s solid and also very streaky. We all know that he’s capable of going on one of those streaks in the postseason. He led the league in postseason points in 2011 and 2013. The reality is that after Marchand, Bergeron, and Krejci, there is a huge drop off in offensive fire power. Three guys just isn’t enough to lead the team to the Stanley Cup. Unless…
The goalie can steal games. Three years ago, Tuukka Rask won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender. He was a major factor in the postseason as the Bruins made it to their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in three years. At age 26, Rask was on the upswing and was expected to be the best goaltender in the NHL. He has been far from that especially this year. Rask is 28th in Goals Against Average at 2.56. Many fans will say that it’s because of the team’s weak defense. That’s certainly a factor. The Bruins have gone from a top defensive team to one of the worst in the league in just two years. Having said that, how many times this year has Rask actually stole a game that the Bruins should have lost? Sure, it’s happened a few times like it does with any goalie. But, Rask has been below expectations. The question now is can he be capable of playing like he did in 2013?
The Bruins have one hope to have a shot at a Stanley Cup run this year. It’s not any of the big three on offense. It’s not a potential awakening from Zdeno Chara. It’s Tuukka Rask. He’s 28 years old. He’s capable. He can be an elite goaltender. He can actually be the elite goaltender. A goalie that stands out normally can carry a team in the playoffs. We’ve all seen it before. See Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins – 2011.
The Bruins 2016 fate lies in the hands of Tuukka Rask. The 28th ranked goalie is perfectly capable of being #1 for a two month stretch. The Bruins need a defenseman. They may get one at the deadline. It probably won’t make a huge difference. The best defense they can get is in their own net…if he’s on his game.