July 18, 2024

Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews Becomes Fastest U.S.-Born Player to Score 300  NHL Goals - The Hockey News Toronto Maple Leafs News, Analysis and MoreBruins show they deserve an upgrade before trade deadline in win vs. Leafs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

BOSTON — The Bruins have flaws, and it will be difficult for general manager Don Sweeney to address all of them before Friday’s 3 p.m. ET NHL trade deadline. But if there’s one thing the Bruins have shown this week, it’s that they deserve an upgrade or two for the playoffs.

Last Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders was by far Boston’s ugliest performance of the season and dropped their post-All Star break record to 4-4-5. The schedule didn’t give them an easy way to bounce back, either. They had to play the Toronto Maple Leafs twice, on the road Monday and then at TD Garden on Thursday, as well as a home matchup versus the red-hot Edmonton Oilers on the second night of a back-to-back.Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews Becomes Fastest U.S.-Born Player to Score 300  NHL Goals - The Hockey News Toronto Maple Leafs News, Analysis and More

The Bruins survived that stretch just fine, beating the Leafs twice and losing to the Oilers in overtime. Thursday’s 4-1 victory over the Leafs was one of the Bruins’ most impressive outings of the campaign. They were physical, won the special teams battle, finished the game with good third period execution and got scoring contributions from lots of different players.

But the most impressive aspect of this three-game stretch has been the Bruins’ defense and goaltending. They allowed just three goals in regulation during these matchups, which is pretty remarkable when you consider the Leafs and Oilers rank No. 3 and No. 5, respectively, in goals scored per game.

The Bruins proved this week that, when they are at their best, this team is very hard to beat. And if Sweeney can figure out a way to bolster the roster — with another left-shot defenseman and/or middle-six forward, for example — he absolutely should do it, even if it means giving up more draft picks and prospects.

“Regardless of what happens tomorrow (at the trade deadline), we feel good about our group,” Bruins captain Brad Machand said after Thursday’s win. “I think we’ve showed the last three games that when we play the right way and play within the structure of our group, and the way they’ve tried to push us to play, we’re a really good team and we can compete with anybody.

“It’s having that belief that we’re a top team. We have to play the way we have this week so far every single night. It’s not an easy thing to do, but if we can continue to find that drive and that energy and emotion each game, we’ll put ourselves in a good spot.”

Another reason for Sweeney to invest in this team is the fact that the Eastern Conference is wide open. It’s not like there are one or two juggernauts and then everybody else. The Florida Panthers look great and lead the league with a 43-17-4 record, but they’re far from unbeatable.

The Bruins could easily play the Leafs in the first round, and you’d have to like their chances of winning that series based on how much they’ve dominated Toronto for the last 10 years. Thursday’s victory extended the Bruins’ win streak over the Leafs to seven games dating back to last season.

The road to the Stanley Cup Final through the East will be difficult. But it wouldn’t be shocking if the Bruins made a deep run. They have the league’s best goaltending duo. They are one of three teams, along with the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers, that rank top 10 in both goals scored and goals against per game. The B’s also have a top 10 power play and penalty kill.Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews Becomes Fastest U.S.-Born Player to Score 300  NHL Goals - The Hockey News Toronto Maple Leafs News, Analysis and More

It won’t be easy for Sweeney to make meaningful roster upgrades Friday. He doesn’t have many valuable draft picks or prospects to trade. Complicating matters further is Boston’s miniscule amount of salary cap space — just $57,500 as of this writing, per CapFriendly.

But the trade deadline is where Sweeney shines. He has made at least one move before each of his previous eight trade deadlines as general manager, and many of those transactions had a really positive impact on the team. If there are upgrades to find, you can bet he’ll find them. And they’ll be worth making for this group.

When you’re one of seven or eight teams with a realistic chance to win the Stanley Cup, you have to go for it. These opportunities aren’t guaranteed every year.

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