There’s nothing more topsy-turvy than the NHL playoff races right now, and the Boston Bruins are a case in point. A couple of weeks ago they were looking like solid picks to make the post-season, if not win the Atlantic Division. But currently, Boston are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, one that has put them within striking range of the Detroit Red Wings, the team in the East currently on the outside looking in for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Bruins have not had an easy go of it lately in terms of scheduling. It’s worth noting that all five of their recent losses have been against playoff contenders. Additionally, four of the games they played were on the road, and the one home game they had was against division-leading Florida.
That scheduling represents a genuinely tough patch of hockey, and it didn’t help that a key goal against Florida got disallowed on Thursday night. But even with a tough schedule, the expectation for a playoff contender is still, at least, some success. The Bruins have now been stagnant in the standings since March 12th, and that has put them under some pressure. With games coming up against weaker competition, Boston have to be targeting a couple of quickly-approaching games as opportunities to put themselves comfortably inside of the playoff picture.
For starters, Boston will be in Toronto on Saturday night (7 pm ET) in a game that they have to approach as a must-win situation. Losing to the likes of Anaheim, Florida, the Rangers, the Kings, and San Jose is one matter. However, if Boston were to lose to one of the worst teams in the NHL this season it could be a backbreaker at this point of the year.
But complicating the matter for Boston is the fact that Toronto hasn’t been playing like a team that’s only interested in a high draft pick of late. The Maple Leafs are 6-3-1 in their last ten, a pretty strong patch of hockey for the conference’s bottom dweller. The Boston/Toronto game is more than a just a tricky match-up for the Bruins on the road; it’s one that could see their losing streak continue. Following Toronto, Boston would play the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, a team with fading chances in the playoff picture.
With tough road games against St. Louis and Chicago to follow, Boston really have to be targeting the Toronto and New Jersey games as ones where they need four points and nothing less. Looking further ahead, the final three games of their season do not have particularly strong competition, and they will all be played at home. Those two circumstances could give Boston an edge in any close race as the end of the regular season nears. However, if the Bruins do not enjoy success against the Leafs or Devils and struggle against the Blues and Blackhawks, as can be expected, then their once comfortable situation could turn dire.
The pressure is really on in Beantown and Saturday night’s game against the Leafs will be televised on NESN and on CBC in Canada. Tuesday’s game against the Devils with also be on NESN and on SportsNet stations north of the border. Four points in the standings and Boston will be looking good, but any regulation losses and the Bruins might find themselves in a desperate situation in early April.