Ah, deadline season is over. Teams are dead, lines have been destroyed for the purpose of futures, and someone, somewhere, fleeced Jim Benning. Even if it was just some kid who needed money for a vending machine in the Canucks offices.
But March is upon us! Yes, the last complete month of the season, where the schedule is relentless at times as the Bruins games in hand start to dry up, and it couldn’t come at a better time as Patrice Bergeron will be presumably out for a lot of it.
Let’s do a quick run-down and see how each week looks!
3/1: vs. Pittsburgh, 7pm
3/3: vs. Montreal, 5pm
Yet another bizarre start time on a weekend. Gotta love those NHL Schedulers, right?
Regardless, this should be a rough test for Boston in the middle of the week against a surging Penguins team that looks just as scary as they did last year, and to finish the week with a bang, the absolutely final game Boston will play against the Carey Price-less Habs this season on a Saturday night, just before dinner. Oh, and they just lost their best defensive center for futures.
For the record, Boston currently holds a 3-0 series lead over Montreal for the first time in a good long while. To blank them would be beautiful music to anyone regardless of whether or not Bergeron is there to help them do it.
3/6: vs. Detroit, 7pm
3/8: vs. Philadelphia, 7pm
3/10: vs. Chicago, 1pm
Detroit is as it always is when Boston plays them, so be ready for what looks like a fun team...just not a good one. Things don’t look great for the Flying Tires going into what will be a brutal offseason.
Philly, in their utter desperation for goaltending, went out and got Petr Mrazek. That actually ended up being a smart move as he’s completely changed the way the Flyers have been doing, currently posting a .947 SV% and as of this writing, looking like world-beaters with a huge win streak running. This could be a tough game, but they are a beatable team. It’s just going to be tough.
Oh! The last game happens to be against Chicago? A team currently on a downswing with no sign of recovery before playing them at home in a back-to-back? And it’s a matinee game?
That’s a trap if I’ve ever seen one.
Week 3: FULL WEEK 1
3/11: @ Chicago, 12:30pm
3/13: @ Carolina, 7pm
3/15: @ Florida, 7:30pm
3/17: @ Tampa Bay, 7pm
Four games, all on the road, and at least two of them could be squirrelly. Tampa will be McDonagh’d up, and look to be a juggernaut that Boston will have to bring their better than the best for, and even Florida has been stringing together wins against foes objectively better than they are now that Roberto Luongo is back. And again, another Matinee game on the road against a floundering team? That feels like an opportunity for Boston to lay a kind of sucky game out on the floor if they managed to get through the first one alright.
Somewhere around this week is likely where Boston gets a verdict on Patrice Bergeron. If that turns out okay, then this week can be at least a bit forgiveable. If not? Things become a lot harder going towards the playoffs.
3/19: vs. Columbus, 7pm
3/21: @ St. Louis, 8pm
3/23 @ Dallas, 8:30pm
Columbus is the only home game in this brief stretch before Boston goes on another road trip, and is probably the game with the most to prove...on one side: The Jackets have been having the worst time lately trying to string together meaningful wins and it’s been showing in their gradual free fall in the standings. Boston could easily take advantage of that.
St. Louis and Dallas on the other hand could be...interesting. Both have been violently jockeying for more stable playoff position between themselves and Minnesota for the past few months and any loss could put them from safe in 3rd, or scrambling in the wild card. The Blues traded Paul Statsny to Winnipeg, and have supposedly decided to call it quits on the season, but still have plenty of quality scorers on hand. Dallas is a team based around forechecking and shooting and scoring and nothing else. And to their credit, it’s been working so far...just in ballistic, 6-3 games that they’re on either side of. It all comes down to this: both teams are good, but entirely beatable. But still...they are pretty good. Don’t lose sight of that.
WEEK 5: FULL WEEK 2, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO
3/25: @ Minnesota, 7:30pm
3/27: @ Winnipeg, 8pm
3/29: vs. Tampa Bay, 7pm
3/31: vs. Florida, 1pm
The travel time won’t be as brutal as the Home and home with Chicago, but the Wild is one of those teams Boston either seems to have no trouble with...or all the trouble in the world. Boston won their last engagement, but it was during a time in which the Wild was very dangerous and it took Tim Schaller scoring on an empty net to secure the win. The current iteration of the Wild look even more dangerous than they did last time, so they’d better wrap this one up quick.
The Jets are...uh...hang on... [HURRIEDLY CLICKS THROUGH TABS ON CHROME, LOOKS THROUGH PAPERS WHILE THROWING MANY OF THEM ABOUT]
...a hockey team in Manitoba! With Blake Wheeler and some little Finnish Amish kid on it! Isn’t that crazy?
But seriously, Winnipeg is pretty good and has been getting some pretty solid defense and goaltending for once. Combine that with a trigger happy offense that’s put their team comfortably in the league’s top 5 all year, and Boston’s gonna need to bring it’s A-game in back-checking. They managed to keep them to a shootout last time, they can’t expect that again.
Meanwhile, Tampa and Florida return. Think you’ve seen enough of them? Not yet you haven’t!
X Factors for March:
- Patrice Bergeron’s health: Bergy being the force that he is, even 75% of that force, is way more helpful to the Bruins than Bergy sitting up on level 9. Hope that his foot fracture isn’t bad and he can return during this month.
- New Guys keep pace: Things look pretty good for players like Rick Nash and Tommy Wingels right now. If they keep it up, there should be no issue.
- Old Guys keep pace: being without Bergeron hasn’t stopped players like David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. but it tends to make their scoring a lot more sporadic. If they can find that early-season form where they practically willed the team to points in some games, Boston should be in good shape. Compounding this, the depth needs to keep up the solid work they’ve been doing since the turning of the calendar year.
- Health, in general: There are a pair of really punishing weeks in this month and it’s not getting easier from then on. If anybody’s “day to day”, they should probably not play so they can heal up further, even if it’s just a day. The depth acquisitions can handle a game or two.
In my opinion? Probably the final week. There are plenty of rough opponents that could easily cool off and get worse over time in the middle of this season, but that’s four teams at the end of a long, ugly month that have been markedly better than a lot of their contemporaries over the past few weeks and don’t look to be slowing down. And some of those contemporaries include Boston. Two of whom they will have already played. Regardless of history, they will need to bring better than their best to do get points.
Either way, this will be an enormously fun month for fans. The last vestiges of western conference teams, the pride (and the punching bag) of the Atlantic division, and plenty of metropolitan teams surging to the top for flavor, and all of it will test you as it will also test the Bruins. There is plenty of teams heating up at the right time on this schedule, and many of these teams would love a shot at knocking Boston down a peg while they’re down the premiere center in the NHL.
It’s up to the B’s to dash those hopes. Bergeron, or no Bergeron.