With the Pats finished, here's what you may have missed with the red-hot B's


The New England Patriots' 2021 season is over after a horrendous performance in a 47-17 AFC Wild Card playoff game loss to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday night.

With the Patriots entering the offseason, it's time for Boston sports fans to turn their full attention to the Celtics and Bruins.

It's a good time to focus on the Bruins because they are playing their best hockey of the season right now.

Watch Taylor Hall beat Predators, extend Bruins' win streak with OT goal

The Bruins, who've won five games in a row, now have a mostly healthy roster after a two-week stretch in December during which many players were out of the lineup due to COVID-19.

Here's a recap of what the Bruins have done recently and what lies ahead for the rest of the 2021-22 NHL season.

Standings/Recent play




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The Bruins are the hottest team in the league with a five-game win streak and victories in eight of their nine January games. Not only are they consistently winning games, the Bruins also have beaten some pretty good teams during this stretch, including victories over the Lightning, Capitals and Western Conference-leading Nashville Predators.

This recent run of successful results has considerably closed the gap between the Bruins and third place in the Atlantic Division. Boston trails Toronto by just five points with a game in hand for the third and final playoff spot from the Atlantic.

The Bruins have about a 98 percent percent chance to reach the playoffs in some capacity, per The Athletic's latest projections. The Red Wings are the only team anywhere close to the B's, and Detroit has already played four more games.

Tuukka is back

The longtime Bruins goalie didn't start the season with the team because he was rehabbing his hip following offseason surgery. Rask, whose contract expired after the 2020-21 campaign, signed a one-year deal with a $1 million salary cap hit earlier this month.

Why Bruins signing Tuukka Rask to cheap contract was no-brainer move

He made his season debut last Thursday in a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers during which the veteran netminder made two breakaway saves.

"In terms of just tracking the puck and playing the game and stopping the puck, I'd say it looked like old Tuukka," B's head coach Bruce Cassidy said after Rask's debut.

"Talking to him after, no issues with the surgery. A little bit sore in spots, but I think that's just from not playing for a while, so just muscular. His conditioning, he said, was pretty good. He got tested late, obviously, spent a lot of time in our end with the penalties and the empty net. Good for him, glad to see him come through."

Rask and offseason addition Linus Ullmark give the Bruins excellent depth at the sport's most important position. The B's also have promising rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman in Providence. He could provide a few spot starts if needed, too.

Standout performers

Linus Ullmark, G

Ullmark has been fantastic for over a month, posting a 7-1-0 record, a .924 save percentage and a 2.33 goals against average over his last eight starts. His .871 save percentage on high-danger shot attempts is the ninth-best of any goalie during that span (Dec. 8 through today).

Brad Marchand, LW

Marchand has been the Bruins' best and most complete player this season. He leads the team in goals (20), assists (23) and points (43). He's been particularly hot in January, posting 16 points (nine goals, seven assists) in nine games, including a hat trick in Wednesday's victory over the Montreal Canadiens. Marchand is well on his way to a sixth consecutive season scoring above a point-per-game rate.

David Pastrnak, RW

After a bit of a slow start to the season, Pastrnak has rediscovered his elite form. He has scored eight goals in nine games this month, including a hat trick versus the Flyers last week. Pastrnak was dropped down to the second line alongside Erik Haula and Taylor Hall, and this trio has developed impressive chemistry and been very productive offensively.

Taylor Hall, LW

Hall also got off to a slow start offensively but has taken his performance to another level in January with 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in nine games. 

Patrice Bergeron, C

Bergeron was the Bruins' All-Star selection. He has tallied 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) through 34 games, while also playing at an elite level defensively and on special teams. He remains the best all-around center in the world.

Brad Marchand reacts to snub from All-Star Game with praise for teammate

Charlie McAvoy, D

McAvoy has improved his scoring output quite a bit with 23 points in 32 games, putting him on pace to shatter his career-high of 32 points. The 24-year-old defenseman also has been a defensive stalwart and a driver of puck possession on Boston's top pairing. McAvoy deserves to be a finalist for the Norris Trophy.

Storylines to watch

Trade requests

The Bruins had two of their three 2015 first-round draft picks request trades toward the end of 2021. Jake DeBrusk's request became public on Nov. 30, while Zach Senyshyn revealed his request in December. Neither player has been moved yet, and there also haven't been many rumors/reports on their respective situations. That said, things should pick up as the March 21 trade deadline nears.

No Olympics

NHL players originally were supposed to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics, but COVID-19 forced the league and NHLPA to reverse that decision. The move was an unpopular one among many players, most notably Marchand, who was not shy about voicing his opinion on the subject.

There will be a couple former Bruins players taking part in the Olympics next month, including David Krejci and Vladimir Sobotka, who are representing the Czech Republic.

Grueling schedule

The Bruins had a weird schedule to begin the season with a lot of off days and long stretches without games. That start, combined with six December games being postponed due to COVID-19, have resulted in the Bruins having a packed scheduled to finish out the regular season. It will be a tremendous test of the team's stamina and depth.

Line changes to stick?

Cassidy made the decision to shuffle his lines a bit a few weeks ago and the results have been fantastic. The most notable moves were putting Erik Haula at center on the second line and swapping right wingers David Pastrnak and Craig Smith in the top-six.

Bruins have struck gold with Hall-Pastrnak combo on new-look second line

Here's what the first and second lines have looked like of late:

  • Marchand--Bergeron--Smith
  • Hall--Haula--Pastrnak

Cassidy has often been resistant to move Pastrnak off the top line because that trio has been arguably the league's best combo over the last few years. But the decision has not only rejuvenated Pastrnak's performance, Hall's play has risen quite a bit as well. Haula was struggling mightily before this move and he's also found a rhythm with Hall and Pastrnak as linemates.

The Bruins should strongly consider making these lines permanent. The changes have given the Bruins much-needed scoring depth, which has been a huge weakness of this team in recent playoff runs.

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