The Boston Bruins are approaching the end of the regular season as one of the hottest and healthiest teams in the National Hockey League. The Bruins have added defensive depth and are getting balanced scoring throughout the lineup. Rookie goaltender Jeremy Swayman has emerged as the number one netminder and is 19-8-3 with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage. The team is rolling at the right time and is not showing much of a weakness anywhere.
But what if the team suffers a significant injury in the lineup. Which loss would be the greatest for these streaking Bruins that now look like a legitimate Stanley Cup contender? Of course, if any team lost a key player, it would change the team’s dynamic and make it challenging to win sixteen games and carry the Cup. However, on the Boston Bruins, there is one player the club can not lose for an extended period of time, and a good example of it happened recently.
Captain Patrice Bergeron centers the Bruins’ top line and has combined with Brad Marchand to establish a very formidable duo over the years. The 18-year veteran continues to play at a high level. Bergeron is an elite penalty killer, is terrific on the faceoff dot, and is widely regarded as the best defensive forward of his time. The former second-round pick in 2003 also pairs with Marchand to provide much-needed offense for the Bruins. Bergeron has posted 46 points in 57 games and proved during a recent four-game absence that his presence is necessary for the Bruins to hoist their first Cup since 2011.
With Bergeron out for four games with an infected elbow that required minor surgery, the Bruins went 3-1 and seemed to fill the void. Marchand scored four goals in his center’s absence but was a minus-1 overall. Bergeron’s other linemate Jake DeBrusk has zero shots in three of the games. The Bruins are already relying on DeBrusk to play first-line right wing without a lot of options if the experiment fizzles out. With Bergeron out, Jack Studnicka subbed in at center and had an assist. But it would be a lot to put on a young center who played much of the season in the American Hockey League to fill in for an injured Bergeron in the postseason.
Defenseman Charlie McAvoy looks to be a perennial Norris Trophy candidate and is very important to the team, but the addition of Hampus Lindholm gives the Bruins more depth there. Marchand and David Pastrnak are dynamic offensive players, and losing either one would be a challenge but not as valuable as the top pivot with limited center depth. If the team lost the goaltender, the backup is $5 million Linus Ullmark, who should be able to slot in and play effectively.
The Bruins are tracking to make some noise in the playoffs this season. They have been one of the top teams since January 1st in the entire league. There aren’t many weaknesses on the team. But one area where the Bruins will struggle to manage is the center position without one of the best in the NHL.