Boston Bruins

Mar 5, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Erik Haula (56) celebrates a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s start with the bad: The Bruins were less than 22 seconds away from a potential perfect road trip that included stops in Seattle, California, Vegas, and then Columbus. Now, the good: The Bruins were less than 22 seconds away from a potential perfect road trip that included stops in Seattle, California, Vegas, and then Columbus.

On a flight back to Boston with 10 of a possible 12 points banked away following a shootout win over the Blue Jackets, it’s real hard not to feel great about what the Bruins are doing these days.

“I thought it was a real good trip,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of the trip following its conclusion at Nationwide Arena. “Lot of good hockey. The only one that got away was Anaheim late. Coulda had points there as well. I don’t think we stole any games by any means. I thought we played good, solid hockey in every city we visited.”

But what did we learn about the Bruins?

If we take a look at their loss in Anaheim, it was easy to notice some of the team’s tired legs and how that factored into iffy decisions. It was the second leg of a back-to-back, their third game in four nights, and fourth game in six days (all of which were on the road). So, naturally, you expect some fatigue to factor into the team’s performance. Especially in a close game.

If the Bruins want to manage those issues down the stretch, which they absolutely will have to given their breakneck-speed schedule heavy on this grind, they’ll need every available forward and extra defenseman to provide a jolt of energy when called upon. This is where you can find the extra value in guys like Anton Blidh and Connor Clifton, as both are examples of players who provide pop (and then some) when thrown back into the lineup after trips to the press box. That’ll be easier for the Bruins to manage when they’re no longer worrying about banking away deadline cap space.

Focusing on the victories, however, the Bruins wrapped up this trip with goals from nine different scorers, and 16 different players recorded at least one point. The only three players who posted triple-donuts for the trip: Defenseman Mike Reilly, and forwards Jesper Froden and Curtis Lazar. Froden would’ve found the back of the net had it not been for an incredible toe save from Jonathan Quick and Lazar returned to the lineup Saturday night after playing less than four minutes in Seattle and missing the next four games with an injury. You’ll let their 0-fers slide.

In tandem with that balanced production, you had takeover nights from different lines. Jake DeBrusk netted a hat trick riding with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the new-look, heavy Frederic-Coyle-Smith line powered the Bruins to victory over the Golden Knights, and the fourth line nearly willed the Bruins to victory in that loss in Anaheim.

When talking about a Bruins team that’s been historically and painfully top heavy, this is one hell of a confidence booster.

“I’d like to think our guys would get some confidence,” Cassidy said. “Different guys stepped up from this trip. Lotta guys can feel good about themselves and that’s what you want with your group: to feel like you can win every night.”

Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 5-4 shootout win in Columbus

  • COLUMBUS, OHIO – MARCH 05: Craig Smith #12 of the Boston Bruins skates after the puck in the first period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on March 05, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Rick Osentoski/Getty Images)

    Jake DeBrusk, Craig Smith stay hot for Bruins

    Noted streaky scorers Jake DeBrusk and Craig Smith ended the road swing in hot fashion, with a goal each. For DeBrusk, that’s his eighth goal in the last eight games, while Smith’s goal have him goals in back-to-back regular season games for the first time since a three-game goal streak back in April 2021. That, along with a David Pastrnak run that’s included 11 goals and 17 points in his last 14 games, has given the Bruins some serious production at right wing for the last month and change.

    Can’t remember the last time we say this about the Bruins at that position.

  • Mar 5, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Former Columbus Blue Jackets forward, Rick Nash, has his jersey retired before the game at Nationwide Arena. (Russell LaBounty/USA TODAY Sports)

    Rick Nash may be this core’s greatest ‘what if’ 

    The Black and Gold’s first trip to Columbus in over two years came with some added fanfare, as the Blue Jackets raised Rick Nash’s No. 61 to the Nationwide Arena rafters as the franchise’s first retired number.

    The No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 NHL Draft, Nash spent the first nine years of his career with the Jackets, and is the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (289), assists (258), and points (547). Nash also won a Rocket Richard and was a five-time All-Star during his Columbus tenure, making him an easy pick as the Jackets’ first retired number.

    But the trip down Nash memory lane also came with a look back at his one run with the Bruins, and the idea that it could’ve been so much more. Acquired from New York ahead of the 2018 trade deadline, the Bruins always viewed Nash as more than a rental. Acquired from the Rangers in exchange for Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, then-prospect Ryan Lindgren and a 2018 first-round pick, the price they paid confirmed that, and there was a hope that Nash would be a long-term answer with David Krejci.

    It got off to a promising start, too, as Nash recorded three goals and six points in 11 games with the Bruins. But Nash’s regular-season run with the Bruins came to an end after a high hit from the Lightning’s Cedric Paquette left him concussed, and it wouldn’t be until the 2018 playoffs until we saw Nash back on the ice. Nash did his part to work through the issues, and ended his lone Boston playoff run with three goals and two helpers in 12 games, but was clearly less than 100 percent.

    It was a bit like Marc Savard in 2010 where it started off well, but you clearly saw the tank deplete little by little, and Nash ultimately made the call to call it a career ahead of free agency. It was the right call for Nash, who still deals with concussion-related issues, but it really did completely throw the Bruins’ plans on the right side of their second line into another unknown.

    Think about the 2019 postseason and who the Bruins rotated to the right of Jake DeBrusk and Krejci. It was Marcus Johansson, Karson Kuhlman, and David Backes. If they have Nash, who thrived in terms of generating chances and drawing penalties, the Bruins may very well have enough to rely on more than just their first line on their way to a Stanley Cup victory.

  • Oct 21, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Sean Kuraly (7) calls for the puck in the third period against the New York Islanders at Nationwide Arena. (Gaelen Morse/USA TODAY Sports)

    Sean Kuraly clearly enjoying life with hometown Jackets

    The move to Columbus for hometown boy Sean Kuraly has certainly paid off. In addition to the sweet four-year, $10 million contract, the ex-Bruins center has already scored a career-high eight goals and tallied 21 points through 56 appearances. Kuraly, first acquired by the Bruins in the Martin Jones to San Jose trade, is also averaging a career-high 15:24 per night.

    Among the noticeable changes: The Jackets are giving Kuraly just a bit more offensive-zone love than the Bruins did in his final year in town. That only makes sense, both given the Jackets’ four-line approach and who Kuraly was slotted behind during his Boston days, and it was interesting to see Kuraly out there with the Jackets looking for the game-tying goal late in regulation.

    This is one of those (somewhat rare) instances where both sides won with the split. Kuraly got paid after years of grunt work and the B’s got to give their fourth line a new, improved look.