Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 18: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins celebrates with Charlie Coyle #13 after scoring a hat-trick goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period at TD Garden on January 18, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Avalanche 5-2. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Even as someone who tried telling you that the Bruins would still contend in 2023-24, I must confess that I did not see this coming. Through 45 games, the Bruins remain the top team in the Eastern Conference by way of their 28-8-9 record, and have even re-established a seven-point cushion over the surging Panthers for the top spot in the Atlantic Division.

They’ve done despite an offseason that saw Bruins general manager Don Sweeney have to dive through the free-agent scrapheap because of the Bruins’ cap issues. Oh, and they lost *takes a deep breath* Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tyler Bertuzzi, Taylor Hall, Nick Foligno, Garnet Hathaway, and Tomas Nosek from their forward group.

But the Moneyball Bruins have kept on plugging along, and their offense has far from fallen off a clip despite those high-end departures, with the sixth-most goals in hockey through 45 games this season.

  • Again, it was almost impossible to see this one coming.

    With the Bruins just beyond the halfway mark of the 2023-24, here’s a thought or note on every forward iced by the Bruins this season…

  • Johnny Beecher

    Sep 24, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center John Beecher (19) waits for play to begin against the New York Rangers during the third period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 24, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center John Beecher (19) waits for play to begin against the New York Rangers during the third period at TD Garden. (Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports)

    All things considered, and even with Johnny Beecher recently demoted down to Providence, I think it’s been a successful first NHL season to date for the 22-year-old center. Especially when you look at the way that Beecher has been utilized by the Bruins through the first 39 games of his NHL career.

    Winning the fourth-line center gig out of training camp, the Bruins basically made it known that Beecher’s pathway to NHL minutes involved winning faceoffs and playing a strong defensive game.

    And through the first half of the year, Beecher’s 53.9 percent success rate at the dot ranks second on the Bruins, second to only Pavel Zacha and over three full percentage points better than Charlie Coyle’s 50.8 percent mark. Beecher has also taken 230 defensive-zone faceoffs (second-most on the Bruins), and has posted a 53.5 percent success rate on D-zone draws. That’s the 19th-best percentage in all of hockey among centers with at least 200 D-zone faceoffs this season.

    The 2019 first-round pick has been by all means forced to get comfortable with the defensive zone, too. One of 360 NHL forwards to log at least 300 five-on-five minutes this season, Beecher’s 21.6 defensive zone starts per 60 is the fifth-most among that group of 360. That’s about as close to a baptism by fire as a first-year NHLer can get.

    Beecher has also responded when necessary. When he was scratched following an ugly loss to the Penguins, he returned to the lineup with a goal, and captured wins in 25 of his 42 faceoffs (a 59.5 percent success rate) over four games.

    The 6-foot-3 has also chipped in with some decent offensive production given that aforementioned usage, with five goals on 27 shots and two assists. Beecher also recorded a goal in his first AHL appearance of the 2023-24 season following his demotion down to the minors ahead of Saturday’s win over the Canadiens.

  • Jesper Boqvist

    Oct 26, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Jesper Boqvist (70) shoots the puck while Anaheim Ducks center Sam Carrick (39) defends during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 26, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Jesper Boqvist (70) shoots the puck while Anaheim Ducks center Sam Carrick (39) defends during the first period at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    One of several fringe NHLers signed for depth purposes this past offseason, 2024 has come with a deeper look at what Jesper Boqvist can bring to the Bruins in a bottom-six role, with eight straight appearances for the Swedish-born forward. Over that eight-game run in the new year, Boqvist has put up one goal and three points, along with six hits and one blocked shot, while also bouncing around Montgomery’s lineup.

    Boqvist’s speed in open ice can certainly bounce off the page when he gets going, and Boqvist has seen a noticeable improvement in his faceoff success in a relatively limited sample, with wins in 11 of his 23 battles at the dot. (That 47.8 percent mark is a drastic improvement from last year’s 33.2 mark in 199 faceoffs with the Devils.)

  • Patrick Brown

    Sep 24, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Patrick Brown (38) faces off against New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 24, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Patrick Brown (38) faces off against New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) during the second period at TD Garden. (Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports)

    The first ’13th forward’ of the 2023-24 season, the 31-year-old Patrick Brown has made 10 appearances for Boston this season, with one assist and 17 hits over that 10-game run.

    Brown’s lack of speed was certainly noticeable — especially if he was paired with Jakub Lauko and/or Johnny Beecher — and it did seemingly force the Bruins to somewhat meddle with the optimal identity of that fourth line. In Providence, though, Brown has made a solid impact, with two goals and 11 points in 15 AHL appearances for the Baby B’s.

    It seems fair to suggest that, at this point, Brown has been passed on the depth chart by the likes of Boqvist and Steen.

  • Charlie Coyle

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 30: Charlie Coyle #13 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on October 30, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 30: Charlie Coyle #13 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on October 30, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    I said it once and I’ll say it again: If you expected Charlie Coyle to simply move up the depth chart and replace Patrice Bergeron like it was nothing, there was a 99.999999 percent chance that you were going to be left disappointed. Coyle’s not Bergeron — nobody ‘cept Bergeron is Bergeron — and he’d be the first to tell you that.

    But, all things considered, Coyle is doing one hell of a job of replicating Bergeron from a productivity standpoint.

    Through 45 games this season, Coyle has recorded 16 goals and 36 points. If you go back to the first 45 games of last season, Bergeron to that point had totaled 17 goals and 36 points. The Bruins have also outscored opponents at a 28-19 mark in Coyle’s 564 of five-on-five play to date this year. Of course, that’s a bit different than Bergeron’s numbers through 45 games a year ago (the B’s outscored opponents 26-10 in 527 minutes of five-on-five play with Bergeron out there).

    Similar to Bergeron a year ago, Coyle has been leaned upon to go against the opposition’s top talents most nights, and the Bruins’ record confirms that Coyle has — for the most part — been up to the task to at least a passing grade. Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery has also by all means stapled Brad Marchand to the left of Coyle, as he considers that duo to be his go-to shutdown pairing as a line, which is often juiced up with Jake DeBrusk to the right in ‘winning time.’

    Coyle’s status as a possession monster when the puck is on his stick has been established for quite some time, and that’s remained the case in 2023-24. But Coyle has done a solid job of eliminating those valleys of extended point droughts that often haunted him in his third-line center role with the club. Coyle’s longest point drought of the season is six games, and it just so happened coincided with a pre-Christmas stretch that saw the Bruins drop five of six.

    Is Coyle the perfect top-line center? Of course not. But with the 6-foot-3 center paced for a definite career year (current projections have a healthy Coyle slated to finish the year with 29 goals and 66 points), there’s no denying that he’s been giving you his best Bergeron impression through the first half of the 2023-24 season.

  • Jake DeBrusk

    Nov 30, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) skates after the puck during the first period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 30, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) skates after the puck during the first period against the San Jose Sharks at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    Is there a more polarizing Bruin than Jake DeBrusk? *Tuukka Rask stops enjoying retirement, if only for a moment, and points at the TV like Leo in “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood”.*

    No, but really, the opinions on DeBrusk range from “he’s a part of this team’s core moving forward” to “trade the guy for anything, I don’t care.” It’s rare that you have that kind of split at the clip he does. And a contract year that’s featured the best and worst of DeBrusk from a production standpoint has only intensified those takes and feelings.

    But one thing’s for sure: The annual midseason heat-up is once again coming for DeBrusk, who has recorded seven goals and 13 points in his last 13 outings. It was always going to happen, to be honest. DeBrusk is too skilled a player for his hands and legs to go an entire season without working in unison, and the Bruins’ need for DeBrusk to get it going was always too strong for the club to even allow him to fall out of frame and reduce him to true ‘role player’ status.

    As for the extension for the pending unrestricted free agent, I’m still fascinated to see how this plays out. I do think it ultimately gets done, but at what price point and for how long? After taking multiple short-term deals, you have to think that DeBrusk would prefer some long-term security, especially in the aftermath of that Brandon Hagel extension in Tampa.

    The hot-and-cold nature of DeBrusk’s scoring seems to simply be part of his game at this point — hey, Nathan Horton was a pretty damn streaky scorer if you remember — but it’s the growth of his two-way game and his ability to play up and down Boston’s lineup (and within their top six) that should be enough to make the B’s comfortable with committing to him.

  • Trent Frederic

    Nov 18, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Trent Frederic (11) celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 18, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Trent Frederic (11) celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

    The development of Trent Frederic has been a long, long road for the Bruins, and it’s required an absolute ton of waiting and patience from all involved. I’m talking borderline ‘Grand Theft Auto 6′ levels of patience.

    Speaking with some Bruins people a few years back, they named the Capitals’ Tom Wilson as a hypothetical ‘ideal’ development path for Frederic. They weren’t sure that Frederic would ever hit Wilson’s level as a physical force, but when it came to being a big-bodied winger capable of scoring and playing heavy, that was the ideal comp to them. Well, here in 2023-24, you’re beginning to see some of that promise, with Frederic on the board with 13 goals (fourth-most on the Bruins) and 24 points (seventh-most on the team) through 45 games.

    One of 214 forwards to log at least 500 minutes of five-on-five action this year, Frederic’s 1.17 goals per 60 minutes is the 27th-best rate in the NHL this season. I was one of those people who wondered if Frederic was going to experience a significant comedown after shooting 14.2 percent a year ago (by far a career-high mark), but with a 19.4 percent shooting percentage this season, maybe it’s time we acknowledge that Frederic is just the right kind of spot picker when it comes to landing his heavier-than-you’d-think shot on goal. (Now I know why the Bruins are always asking him to shoot more.)

    On a related note, another extension for Frederic may be moving up the Bruins’ list of priorities.

  • Morgan Geekie

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 05: Morgan Geekie #39 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on October 05, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 05: Morgan Geekie #39 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on October 05, 2023 in New York City. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    If I had a Bruins comp of yesteryear for Morgan Geekie, and this may be a bit of a throwback for some of you, it’s Riley Nash. Signed as an underrated bottom-six type, Geekie has shown an ability to play with the Bruins’ skill players. It’s easy to see why the Bruins made him a priority when free agency began, especially when they themselves were surprised that the Kraken opted not to extend Geekie a qualifying offer after what was a breakout year in a fourth-line role. Geekie, by the way, is just one goal and six points away matching last year’s career-highs of nine goals and 28 points, and with 37 games to go.

  • Danton Heinen

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 20: Danton Heinen #43 of the Boston Bruins celebrates after scoring a hat trick goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at TD Garden on January 20, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Canadiens 9-4. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 20: Danton Heinen #43 of the Boston Bruins celebrates after scoring a hat trick goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at TD Garden on January 20, 2024. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Every year, there seems to be a player that goes unsigned through the summer, joins a club on a pro tryout, and parlays that tryout opportunity into a cheap deal that pays for itself 10 times over. The rest of the league goes, “How the hell did we all miss on this guy?!” and you wonder what your front office was doing while he sat on the shelf.

    Fortunately for the Bruins, it appears that they may have found that player with the signing of Danton Heinen.

    Inked to a league-minimum deal in late October, the 28-year-old has pure value add for the Bruins, with eight goals and 17 points through 37 games this season. Heinen also has a plus-11 rating that ranks fourth-best among all Boston skaters.

    No stranger to playing all over the lineup (and he’s done that this season), Heinen has absolutely made the most of his ice time when it comes to putting points on the board, too. One of 276 NHL players to log at least 450 minutes of even-strength time on ice this season, Heinen’s 2.02 points per 60 ranks 117th. Some notable names he’s outproducing on that front: Alex Ovechkin, Tyler Bertuzzi, Steven Stamkos, Johnny Gaudreau, and Timo Meier.

    All for $775,000.

    And by now, it should be clear that Heinen is not the same player that the Bruins traded in 2020. He’s grown since then. He’s a more complete player, and he forechecks his absolute ass off. He’s still not a board-rattling physical presence (and he’s never gonna be), but he’s still willing to get his nose in there, and his veteran know-how is officially there and with his stick smarts long established, that’s a valuable weapon in your bottom six even when the points aren’t coming.

    Here’s a question for you: Would you try to sign Heinen to an extension? Personally, I think that’s something that the Bruins should absolutely explore. It seems obvious that Boston is a place built for the resourceful Heinen to succeed, especially with Montgomery (who coached Heinen in college) at the helm. Heinen also has established chemistry with countless players part of the B’s present and future. And after going through the hell that Heinen has from a contract standpoint over the last little while, maybe Heinen wants security more than anything else as he approaches 30, and that a cheaper contract is attainable should the B’s offer him term (think something like a two-year deal at $1.5 million per year).

  • Jakub Lauko

    Jan 6, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Philippe Myers (5) and Boston Bruins center Jakub Lauko (94) shove each other after the whistle during the first period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 6, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Philippe Myers (5) and Boston Bruins center Jakub Lauko (94) shove each other after the whistle during the first period at the TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

    Speaking after last Thursday’s win over the Avalanche, energy winger Jakub Lauko admitted that he recently found himself at rock bottom from a confidence standpoint and that he needed to rebuild it from the ground up.

    That’s almost to be expected when you’re in and out of the lineup and had yet to record a goal through your first 31 games of the season. But Lauko found the back of the net in that win over the Avs, and recorded an assist in last Saturday’s win over Montreal, putting the Czech-born Lauko on the first point streak of his NHL career.

    When it comes to Lauko, I love the motor, love his ability to draw penalties when that skating game is there, and think he’s a unique weapon on Boston’s bottom-six forward grouping. The Bruins lost a lot of jam from their fourth line last year between Garnet Hathaway and even Tomas Nosek, and I do Lauko brings an irritating (in the best possible way) spark to that group. Lauko’s also shown a willingness and drop the gloves to generate a spark for his team and the crowd.

    You need players like that, and it’ll be interesting to see if Lauko turns it up like he did down the stretch last year.

  • Milan Lucic

    Oct 11, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic (17) during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 11, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Milan Lucic (17) during the second period against the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

    In action for just four games this season, it was Milan Lucic’s off-ice actions that outweighed his on-ice contributions, as the veteran wing was arrested and charged with assault and battery for a domestic incident involving his wife back in November. Lucic, currently in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, had a pretrial hearing last week, and the case is set to go to trial next month. With all that in mind, it would be an absolute shock if Lucic returned to the club.

  • Brad Marchand

    Jan 8, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) before the game against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 8, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) before the game against the Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena. (Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports)

    People keep waiting for the cliff to come for Brad Marchand. You heard a lot about it when Marchand got off to a slow start. But with 20 goals and 43 points through 45 games this season, it’s clear that it is not here, and that Marchand is still delivering for the Bruins at a top-tier level. Perhaps more importantly, you’re also seeing Marchand coming into his own wearing the ‘C’ for the Bruins and establishing his own brand of leadership. It feels a bit more vocal than Bergeron or Zdeno Chara’s lead-by-example type of leadership. And with a touch of Marchand’s signature griminess (a compliment).

  • Georgii Merkulov

    Sep 29, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Georgii Merkulov (42) skates with the puck during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 29, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Georgii Merkulov (42) skates with the puck during the third period against the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    If there’s one complaint I truly have with the Bruins’ forward usage this year, it was during the four-game NHL run for Georgii Merkulov. If only because I can’t help but feel like we didn’t learn much of anything when it came to his NHL promise. Recalled from Providence amid a scorching scoring stretch for AHL Providence, the Bruins utilized Merkulov in a third-line and fourth-line role, and his time on ice went as follows: 15:08, 8:33, 12:15, and 6:23.

    Hated it!

    Of course, Merkulov proved to not be ready for NHL-quality centers at the dot (he went just 6-for-22), but with showdowns against the then-free falling Red Wings, the Blue Jackets, and then a high-scoring contest against the Penguins, it felt like there was a legitimate chance to get Merkulov some minutes with some high-end offensive talents.

    The good news is that Merkulov hasn’t fallen off the face of the earth since his return to the minors, but I simply wish we had a bit more ‘exploration’ with Merkulov when it came to a true house money type of recall.

    Merkulov, an undrafted signing out of Ohio State, is an example of the type of player that the Bruins have to hit on when you look at the way they’ve stripped their draft pick cupboard bare in pursuit of a Stanley Cup.

  • David Pastrnak

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 20: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins celebrates with fans after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at TD Garden on January 20, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Canadiens 9-4. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 20: David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins celebrates with fans after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at TD Garden on January 20, 2024. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Working at 98.5 The Sports Hub for almost six years now, I must confess that I believe that I have developed an immunity to bad takes. I hear and see so damn many, that most of them just bounce off me. Like I’m Rubber Man. “Why did I think there was a Rubber Man? There’s an Elastic Man, there’s a Plastic Man…”

    But if there’s one take I truly don’t have time for this season, it’s bellyaching about David Pastrnak.

    Listen, you’re free to complain about bad shootout attempts or overtime misplays. Just know that I truly don’t care and listening to anybody waste actual energy on this is enough to make my eyes roll out of my head and leave me to chase them all the way down Causeway Street. If there’s anybody who has entered almost rarified air this season as a sacred cow, it’s this year’s version of Pastrnak. I mean, where would this team be without him? (Spoiler: The toilet.)

    Through 45 games this season, Pastrnak leads the Bruins in goals (30), assists (36), and points (66). He recently hit the 60-point mark at a pace and frequency that’s only been matched by the likes of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, and Bill Cowley. In the 100-year history of the Bruins. Just try to wrap your head around that accomplishment.

    And with 66 points, Pastrnak has had a direct hand in 42.3 percent of Boston’s total scoring in 2023-24.

    Pastrnak’s 8.2 point share (as calculated by Hockey-Reference and a measure of how many points one has added to their team’s success) is also the fourth-best in hockey this year, trailing only Vancouver Quinn Hughes (9.1), as well as the Avs’ Nathan MacKinnon (8.4) and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov (8.4).

    The 27-year-old has also shown tremendous growth when it comes to his two-way game, his overall physicality, his on-puck strength, and his willingness to match the nastiness of teams trying to throw him off his game.

    Don’t get lost in the bullshit and trick yourself into thinking Pastrnak has been anything other than incredible this year.

  • Matt Poitras

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 30: Matthew Poitras #51 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on October 30, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 30: Matthew Poitras #51 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on October 30, 2023. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    You know, Matt Poitras believed in himself from the jump. He came to rookie camp and said he wanted to make it hard for the Bruins to send him back to OHL Guelph, and he said the same at regular training. And, to the shock of most, he did exactly that won an NHL job at 19 years old. Pairing him with some big-bodied space clearers has been the B’s best moves to maximize the first-year pro’s impact, in my opinion, and the Bruins have plenty of options there between Frederic, Geekie, and van Riemsdyk. One lingering concern I have: Poitras has taken an absolute beating this season. It feels like he’s elbowed in the mug or boarded every other game. He’s brushed it off and said that he enjoys sticking his nose in those dirty areas of the rink, but it can take a toll. Even if you’re an absolute masochist.

  • Oskar Steen

    Dec 15, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; Boston Bruins center Oskar Steen (62) skates against the New York Islanders during the second period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 15, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; Boston Bruins center Oskar Steen (62) skates against the New York Islanders during the second period at UBS Arena. (Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports)

    After going unclaimed on waivers multiple times over the last two years, Oskar Steen is truly playing like a player with nothing to lose. A bottom-six energy type, the Bruins like how the undersized Steen uses his stout frame to make an impact physically, and you can seen what a lift he can bring when he brings his skating legs to the game and sends an opposing defenseman on his ass or into the boards. But for as solid as Steen has been in his fourth-line role (he has one goal and 47 hits in 27 games), he seems like a player playing in a spot that the B’s may try to upgrade between now and the deadline.

  • James van Riemsdyk

    ELMONT, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 15: James van Riemsdyk #21 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on December 15, 2023 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    ELMONT, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 15: James van Riemsdyk #21 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on December 15, 2023 in Elmont, New York. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    The Bruins took a one-year, $1 million gamble that James van Riemsdyk disappointing 2022-23 in Philadelphia was a product of bad luck more than anything else. Last year’s analytics showed that ‘JVR’ generated looks at a familiar clip, but that they simply didn’t go in at the same frequency that had defined the veteran’s career as one of the game’s premier net-front threats. And through 41 games, the Bruins have been proven right from a points perspective, as van Riemsdyk has already matched his 2022-23 point total (29) in 20 fewer games. van Riemsdyk is also off to his best power-play start (11 points on the man advantage) since 2020-21, and arguably has even more room to grow as a shooter with this year’s 7.9 shooting percentage over two percent lower than last year’s 10.1 percent mark in Philly.

    Prediction: van Riesmdyk makes a late-season push that sees him challenge for 20 goals.

  • Pavel Zacha

    TAMPA, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 20: Pavel Zacha #18 of the Boston Bruins celebrates a goal in the first period during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on November 20, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    TAMPA, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 20: Pavel Zacha #18 of the Boston Bruins celebrates a goal in the first period during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on November 20, 2023. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

    Year 2 in a Bruins sweater has been a solid one for Pavel Zacha.

    With 10 goals and 27 points through 41 games and with 37 games to go in the season, Zacha is currently paced for what would be about a two-goal and six-point drop from what was a career year in 2022-23. But when you factor in the injury that put Zacha on the shelf for a brief spell and led to what felt like a slower-than-usual re-entry, things could be a lot worse.

    The positives: Zacha’s faceoff game continues to improve with the Bruins, and his chemistry with David Pastrnak remains there, whether he’s at wing or center. Something that Zacha could improve upon in the second half, however, is his shot-first mentality. You understand that he’s naturally going to defer a bit more than usual when playing with a goal scorer like Pastrnak, but Zacha has an absolute cannon of a shot. And he simply doesn’t use it enough. If he unleashes that with a slightly higher frequency, that’s going to open things even more for himself and Pastrnak.

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