Bruins’ offense has woken up, but is help needed before trade deadline? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
When the Boston Bruins limped into the holiday break with their first four-game losing streak since 2019, a lack of scoring was a major reason for their struggles at the time.
Jake DeBrusk couldn’t find the back of the net. Brad Marchand wasn’t dominating games at the level he’s capable of. Pavel Zacha was in a lengthy goal drought. James van Riemsdyk’s hot start to the season had considerably cooled off. Charlie Coyle was on a six-game goal drought. The blue line was not scoring at the same rate as last season.
The break came at the perfect time for the B’s because their offense looks recharged, and the results speak for themselves. The Bruins carry a three-game win streak into Tuesday’s matchup with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and they’ve scored at least four goals in every contest during this stretch (14 in total). The Bruins beat the Sabres 4-1 last Wednesday before earning a 5-2 win over the Devils on Saturday and a 5-3 victory against the Red Wings on Sunday.
“I think coming off a big break like that, especially with how we finished going into Christmas, there could’ve been a lot to dwell on, but everyone did a great job of resetting and really just starting fresh and making sure we’re building our game,” Bruins defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk told reporters after Saturday’s win. “I think that’s what these past two games have been. We’ve been getting better every period.”
The most encouraging part of the win streak for the Bruins so far has been the resurgence of Jake DeBrusk, who ended his goal drought by scoring once against both the Devils and Red Wings.
DeBrusk has two goals and three assists over the last three games. He’s on a bit of a hot streak right now.
“I think it started in Buffalo (last week),” Montgomery told reporters after Saturday’s win. “You can tell (DeBrusk’s) speed is very, very noticeable. When his speed is noticeable, you know he’s on top of his game. And he’s doing a lot of little good things. That goal he scored is a goal-scorer’s goal. Not a lot of people take that puck to the far post because you have to have courage to do that. That’s a brave play by him.”
Trent Frederic posted his second two-goal game of the season on Sunday. He’s on pace for his first 20-goal season after scoring a career-high 17 times a year ago.
Left it to Freddy to finish off that first 💯 pic.twitter.com/w0pdfTn58Y
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 31, 2023
Pastrnak continues to be in the Hart Trophy conversation as one of the most consistent offensive players in the world. He has two goals and four assists in this win streak, including a fantastic tally against the Devils on Saturday. Pastrnak has 50 points in 35 games and is on pace for his second consecutive 100-point campaign.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) December 31, 2023
Charlie Coyle had a six-game goal drought entering the Christmas break. He’s rebounded strongly with three goals and two assists in the last three matchups, including a pair of power-play tallies versus the Sabres. Coyle has taken on an increased role offensively as a top-six center after the offseason departures of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. He is on pace to hit the 25-goal mark for the first time in his career.
Chaaaarlie Coyle has TWO goals for the B’s 🐻 pic.twitter.com/sNGm3IU86H
— NHLonTNT (@NHL_On_TNT) December 28, 2023
This recent offensive surge has been encouraging and much-needed for the Bruins, but the real question right now is whether it can last.
Even with a nice scoring outburst over the last week, Boston still ranks 23rd in 5-on-5 goals and 16th in total goals scored. The power play is carrying the team right now after going 5-of-8 over the last three games, including a 3-of-4 showing against the Sabres and a 2-of-2 success rate versus the Devils. The power play’s recent production is quite positive for the Bruins, but relying on it to consistently be a major scoring driver would be a mistake.
The Bruins should make a move at the trade deadline, preferably for a middle-six wing who can boost the team’s secondary scoring before the playoffs. They need more depth up front. A case can be made that this team lacks the offensive firepower to win multiple rounds in the postseason. The B’s rank 26th in goals scored when trailing and 31st in scoring chances when trailing this season, per Natural Stat Trick. If this team falls behind in the playoffs, who besides Pastrnak and Marchand can be trusted to get the team level or take the lead?
If DeBrusk was scoring goals on a consistent basis, maybe the B’s could look to make a different move ahead of the deadline. But he’s been too hot and cold throughout his career to be trusted as a dependable scorer. DeBrusk went 11 straight games without a goal before scoring in both wins over the weekend. Van Riemsdyk has outplayed his contract, but he has scored only once in his last 17 games. Before scoring twice on Sunday, Frederic had just two goals in his previous 18 games. Veteran defenseman Hampus Lindholm has scored once this season after finding the back of the net 10 times in 2022-23. Matt Grzelcyk is one of the team’s top playmakers on the blue line, but the 29-year-old defenseman has missed 14 of 35 games due to injuries.
The Bruins have the best goaltending tandem in the NHL. Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark are able to cover up a lot of this team’s shortcomings, including an offense that sometimes runs cold. But that’s not a sustainable way to win games, particularly in the playoffs.
The tricky part for general manager Don Sweeney is the B’s lack the caliber of assets typically needed to make a substantial in-season move for a top-six forward. They don’t have a pick until the fourth round in 2024. They are without a second-rounder in 2025. The prospect pool ranks in the bottom third of the league. Plenty of other teams have better trade assets if there’s a bidding way for a player such as Flames center Elias Lindholm.
Trades are what Sweeney does best, though. His track record here is very strong, not only in identifying the right players to acquire but also not giving up too much to get the deals done. He’ll need to pull another rabbit out of his hat to get the Bruins the scoring depth they need to have a real shot at making a deep playoff run in the spring.