The trade deadline really did come at the perfect time for the Bruins this year.
Their entire makeup, entire feel is like a different hockey club heading into the postseason. With one game left in Washington against their postseason foe to close out the regular season, they already have a sense of the type of team they are now, and it didn’t take too long.
On Monday night, Taylor Hall looked as dominant as he has the entire time he’s been a member of the Bruins. His fit, especially alongside David Krejci, stands out. He’s playing with more chemistry and invigoration than in potentially years.
“It’s been a good transition for me,” said Hall. “There’s real good leadership in our dressing room. Even when I wasn’t on this team I thought this was a style of play I could play well in. I feel like I’ve had a positive impact. It’s important to me on a personal level to maintain that level of impact in the playoffs.”
He scored the opening goal, his seventh since being rescued from a lost Buffalo season, then closed it with an overtime highlight reel-worthy goal after the Bruins spot had already been locked up.
Hall’s reset the entire vibe of the Bruins, too, alongside defenseman Mike Reilly, who had a few looks of his own against the Islanders.
“I thought he was really good tonight, had a real good power play around the first period….” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “He backchecked from goal line to goal line to keep it out of our net. He’s a real invested player for us on both ends. Drew a penalty, is making defensive plays…. Since he’s been here I think he’s opened up more, that tells me right away he’s more comfortable. It shows on the ice.
“That’s the Taylor Hall we were hoping to get.”
The Bruins needed just one point to clinch third place in the East, and a series with the Capitals in the first round (Game 1: Sat. May 15, 7:15 p.m. ET – NBC). Despite the Islanders best efforts — pulling their goalie in a tie game! — the Bruins will close their regular season with a meaningless game against their first round opponent.
Historically, there are a lot of teams who use nice mid-season moves to guide their way to postseason success. Last year’s Lightning team added Blake Coleman. In 2011, the Bruins made some key deadline moves to help them earn their first Cup since the 1970s.
This season feels like more than a couple of nice moves, though; they whole identity was shaken while keeping the core in tact. The pulse of the team is still Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand playing perhaps the best hockey of their careers and star David Pastrnak blooming more every day.
Hall, though, changed the element; Krejci has been stagnant on the second line for years. On his left, Jake DeBrusk was stale, and the 24-year-old has slumped his way into the bottom six. On the right side, that’s been a well-documented carousel.
“It’s been 16 games, and it’s probably been the most enjoyable games I’ve played in my career,” said Hall.
The dynamic has changed in a way where the Bruins are still the same force that dominates on the power play and almost every time their top line hits the ice.
Now, though, the depth matches the vision. They have something there that before the season wasn’t on the radar. As they prepare for a road-ice start to their series with the Capitals, they might not be the favorite, but they sure are dangerous.