Maybe they are the favorites, maybe they are not. But the Bruins own at least a justifiable hope of winning the Eastern Conference and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final to play the designated behemoth from the West.
Some confirmation has come from their recent play. Any post-Sochi rust on their skates was shaken off Tuesday night in an impressive 4-1 win over the Panthers. They’ve won two in a row since an OT loss to Buffalo and a frustrating 4-2 loss to the Capitals began their post-break sprint to the playoffs.
We know they’re a very good team — they have the second-best goal differential in the league. They’re a team that is playing as well now as they did before the break, when they closed with an 8-1-2 run. They’re a team that has a knack for playing its best later in the season, even into June.
Which is why Wednesday is so frustrating. There’s was no game Wednesday night, but there was a chance to win. As the trade deadline approached, the Bruins had an obvious need: a veteran defenseman to fill some of the void left when relentlessly dependable Dennis Seidenberg blew out the ACL and MCL in his right knee in late December.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli did come away with two veteran defensemen. Unfortunately, neither Andrej Meszaros, acquired from the Flyers for a pick, nor Corey Potter, claimed off waivers from the Oilers, is anything resembling a replica of Seidenberg.
There’s nothing wrong with acquiring veteran depth, especially on defense. Meszaros, a 28-year-old bruiser with, like so many other Chiarelli acquisitions, an Ottawa Senators background, is useful. But he’s just a part, perhaps a spare one, and with the possibility of another run toward the Cup Final, it’s disappointing that the Bruins didn’t repair their most glaring flaw.
After the win Tuesday, the vibe post-deadline Wednesday felt like an old-school, is-that-all-there-is? tie. Maybe even a loss considering the Canadiens acquired notorious Bruins-killer Thomas Vanek.
With what’s at stake — another Cup run during Zdeno Chara’s window — it’s too bad the 37-year-old captain couldn’t have received more help.
Educated speculation was that Jack Johnson, who couldn’t make the US Olympic team but would have been more than welcome here, might come over from Columbus.
Instead, we’re left with Meszaros, roster fodder in Potter, and the unfulfilled wish that Chiarelli could find a veteran defenseman who’d be a perfect Bruin, just as he found Seidenberg in March 2010. I suppose heists like that one can’t happen every year.