NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Thursday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers. Bruins-Rangers coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
When the Bruins face the Rangers on Thursday, they’ll be doing their best to take care of business.
Depending upon how the Bruins handle the Rangers (twice, plus one game apiece vs. the Islanders and Capitals), Boston could climb the East Division rankings. Sites such as Money Puck give the Bruins about a 10% chance to nab the East Division crown.
Considering the muted expectations for the Bruins heading into the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline, that’s quite a leap. Then again, since adding Taylor Hall and others during that trade deadline, the Bruins morphed into a team you need to watch out for.
You might even call the Bruins the winners of the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline.
Bruins red-hot since the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline
For Bruins fans looking past the Rangers straight to the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s reasonable to weigh their three possible opponents.
- Do the Bruins prefer an Islanders team that’s been struggling lately? Or would it still be anxious times to face the Barry Trotz-lead Islanders in the meatgrinder that is the NHL playoffs, streaks or not?
- Win or lose, would a Round 1 series vs. the burly Capitals be too bruising for a long Bruins playoff push?
- The Penguins have been just as hot as the Bruins. Even with a potentially effective match for Sidney Crosby in Patrice Bergeron, would that constitute playing with fire?
No doubt, it’s fun to bat those thoughts around.
Yet, for a contender — as the Bruins aim to be — it must be freeing when you’re less worried about matchups, and instead heading in confident. And the B’s absolutely should be puffing their chest out.
Following the trade deadline, the Bruins are 10-3-1 in 14 games. Those 21 points tie the Hurricanes for the second-most since April 11, with the Golden Knights first at 22.
Tantalizingly, the Bruins don’t really look like they’re simply lucky, either. Since the trade deadline, the Bruins’ underlying numbers “pop.” During that span, they rank in the top three or so in just about every major category, including No. 1 at expected goals percentage at 60.75.
Imagine if the Bruins find the power play magic they conjured not that long ago. The Bruins have only converted on 14.7-percent of their power plays since the trade deadline. (Brad Marchand‘s scored 15 points in his past 14 games — none with a man advantage.)
Variety is spicing up these B’s
Truly, Taylor Hall’s making the sort of impact for the Bruins that realistic teams barely even dream about anymore from trade deadline additions.
To many, Smith was a savvy free agent bargain in a similar (but not as spectacular) bargain as Hall was via the trade deadline. So, it’s been promising to see Smith convert the chances he often creates into actual production. You might compare it to how Tyler Toffoli is flourishing in Montreal after showing under-the-radar promise, even during his darker Kings days.
Beyond Hall, the Bruins unearthed the more modest (but often crucial) trade deadline deals that can tie the room together. Curtis Lazar helps their fourth line/bottom six stay afloat, and Mike Reilly‘s been a boon for their defense.
Combine that revamped second line, better depth among the entire skater group, mostly strong goaltending, and “The Perfection Line,” and the Bruins look like a truly formidable contender once again. Starting with the Rangers on Thursday, the Bruins can make that more obvious by rising up the East Division ranks.