Bruins’ SoCal success shouldn’t change Don Sweeney’s trade deadline approach

Matt Kalman
February 17, 2019 - 1:53 pm

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:

*After going 13 games without a goal, DeBrusk has one goal in each of his past three games. It’s his first NHL regular-season three-game goal streak (he had goals in three straight in last year’s playoffs) and his 17 goals on the season surpassed his rookie-year total by one after he scored against the Kings.

DeBrusk is, he admitted recently, streaky. But his hot play shows just what a lethal combination he could form with center David Krejci on a consistent basis if the Bruins could add a wing to their line with the pedigree to play a strong two-way game and consistently keep up with the NHL pace. Peter Cehlarik has been satisfactory but one has to worry how he’ll respond to the NHL stretch run, not to mention the postseason.

*I don’t have anything to say about Tuukka Rask’s two-pads-stacked save in Los Angeles other than to say we now have something to show the ill-informed whiners that say Rask isn’t a great goalie because he never makes the “big save.” Rask’s big saves often come without drama because of his exceptional anticipation and positioning. But if you wanted Rask to channel his inner Tim Thomas just once, now you’ve seen it. So pipe down.

*Defenseman Kevan Miller missed 13 games earlier this season when he took a John Tavares shot to his larynx. That scary injury hasn’t stopped him from sacrificing his body, though, and he blocked six more shots against Los Angeles. One of those shots went off his shoulder/collarbone area and had to sting.

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.

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