The 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs can't come soon enough for Boston Bruins fans.
They have watched their team enjoy a massively successful 2022-23 regular season. Expectations are championship or bust after a Presidents' Trophy-winning campaign.
But there are still five games left on the schedule. Even though the B's know they have the No. 1 seed and home ice advantage in the playoffs already wrapped up, you still want to feel good about your game entering the postseason grind.
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With that in mind, here are five Bruins storylines to keep an eye on over the last couple regular season games.
1) Health is critical
One of the primary factors that could derail the Bruins' path to the Stanley Cup is injuries.
Fortunately for the Bruins, they do not have any significantly important players out of the lineup with injuries. But they do have a few guys banged up.
Taylor Hall has been out of action since Feb. 25 with a lower body injury. He has been skating at practice but wearing a red non-contact jersey. Nick Foligno has not played since Feb. 28 due to a lower body injury suffered as a result of a collision with Flames forward Nikita Zadorov. Veteran defenseman and important penalty killer Derek Forbort has not played since March 16 when he blocked a shot against the Winnipeg Jets and left the game in the second period.
The Bruins have weathered the storm without these injured players quite well, including a 13-4 record since Hall's injury. Boston's depth has shined, with players such as Jakob Lauko, Trent Frederic, Pavel Zacha, Tyler Bertuzzi and others stepping up in larger roles.
This depth will be mightily important in the playoffs, especially if Hall, Foligno and/or Forbort are not able to suit up for Game 1 of the first round. The Bruins are capable of making a title run without these players. But any more injuries would test the team's depth in a major way.
This is why health and resting veterans who are banged up should be a priority over the next two weeks. Breaking records is cool (more on that below), but health is most important.
2) Will Brad Marchand break out of goal scoring slump?
Marchand hasn't played poorly by any means over the last couple weeks. He's done good work on the penalty kill and has picked up eight assists in his last 11 games. But the first-line left wing also hasn't scored a goal in his last 13 games. Marchand's most recent goal came in a March 9 defeat to the Edmonton Oilers at TD Garden.
Marchand's longest goal drought of the season before his current slump was six games in December. This goal-scoring slump is not a huge reason for concern, though. Marchand is a 14-year veteran and has an impressive track record of producing offensively in the playoffs.
But it would be beneficial for the Bruins if he found his scoring groove again before Round 1. And to his credit, he wants to be out there over the final couple games.
"I prefer to play. I've missed enough this year," Marchand told reporters after Sunday's win against the St. Louis Blues. "It's up to them (the coaching staff). If they want that, I respect their decision."
3) Can the power play find consistency?
The Bruins' power play has struggled mightily for nearly two months. In fact, this unit ranks 23rd in the league with a 16.7 percent success rate post-All Star break (Feb. 11 through today).
Boston's power play was the No. 1 concern about this team until late last week. The Bruins have scored on four of their last seven power-play opportunities since the second period of last Thursday's win against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Bruins won the Stanley Cup with a horrendous power play in 2011. That said, each of the last six Stanley Cup winners had a top 10 power play during the regular season. The Bruins currently are 12th at 22.3 percent.
This unit finding some consistency and executing better zone entries would be a very encouraging sign for the Bruins ahead of the playoffs.
4) Will David Pastrnak reach 60 goals?
Pastrnak last week became the first Bruins player to score 50 or more goals in a season since Cam Neely in 1993-94. The superstar right wing has actually been on a bit of a hot streak of late. Pastrnak scored five goals in four games last week to earn the NHL's Third Star of the Week. He will enter Thursday's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs with 56 goals, second only to Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid's 62.
It's totally possible Pastrnak could hit the 60-goal mark. If the 26-year-old right wing gets there, he'll join a small list of players who've scored 60 or more goals since 2000.
- Alex Ovechkin: 65 goals in 2007-08
- Connor McDavid: 62 goals (and counting) in 2022-23
- Steven Stamkos: 60 goals in 2011-12
- Auston Matthews: 60 goals in 2021-22
The only player in Bruins history to score 60-plus goals in a single season is Hall of Fame forward Phil Esposito, who did it four times, including a team-record 76 goals during the 1970-71 campaign.
Pastrnak is having an amazing season, and his 103 points are the most by a Bruins player since Joe Thornton's 101 points in 2002-03. He is deserving of being a Hart Trophy finalist with or without 60 goals.
5) More records could be broken
The Bruins have broken a bunch of team and league records this season, and a few more could be set over the next few weeks.
The B's already set team records for most wins in a season, most road wins in a season and most points in a season. Jim Montgomery set a new record for wins by a head coach in his first season with a team.
A couple league records are still within the Bruins' reach. They need three more wins in their final five games to set a new record with 63. The current record is 62, set by the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston also needs eight more points (133 in total) to surpass the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens' record for most points in a season. Ironically, the Bruins' final regular season game is against the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on April 13.
Regular season records aren't the priority for the Bruins. Winning the Stanley Cup is obviously the top objective. But if you have a chance to set some historic records, you might as well give it a shot, right?