BOSTON (CBS) – History might mean absolutely nothing to the Boston Bruins right now.
They won the Cup in June. They had an abysmal opening month. They were the best team in hockey in November and December. They’ve been .500 ever since, and they’re in the middle of the absolute worst stretch of hockey they’ve had in some time.
So sure, looking at history won’t necessarily tell us anything about the future, but it’s all we have to go on.
And in looking at the remaining schedules of the first-place-for-now Bruins and the second-place Senators, the Bruins may have a slight – but only slight – advantage to lock up the Northeast Division and the No. 2 seed in the East.
First and foremost, there are the two games in hand the Bruins have over Ottawa. The B’s own a one-point lead over Ottawa, despite playing two fewer games. That means the Bruins have two more opportunities to pick up two points between now and early April. Granted, the Bruins have been unable to use those games in hand to build an insurmountable lead, but it will no doubt help to have that advantage going forward.
Then, there are the matchups. The remaining opponents on the Bruins’ schedule have a combined record of 451-339-116. For simplicity’s sake, that’s a .562 points percentage. The Senators’ remaining opponents are 307-247-73 for a .548 points percentage.
In terms of quality opponents, the Senators have the slightly easier schedule, but those opponents haven’t been too kind to them this season, as they’ve gone 15-11-5 against them. The Bruins have gone 22-12-1 against their remaining opponents.
However, there are some variables. For one, the Bruins’ head-to-head schedule is largely skewed from their games in November and December, when they were unstoppable and beat just about everyone. Now, the B’s are less than two weeks removed from a home loss to the lowly Islanders, and they’ll visit Long Island on March 31. That’s followed by a back-to-back set against the two best teams in the conference, at Madison Square Garden and then home against the Penguins.
Best of all, following those two games is a trip to Ottawa on April 5. Will first place and the No. 2 seed in the East be on the line?
Well, it depends. Using .500 hockey as the baseline, we’ll say the Bruins finish their season 6-6-1, giving them a 46-32-4 record for 96 points. If the Bruins finish .500, the Senators (currently with 82 points) would have to go 7-3-1 in their final 11 games to surpass the Bruins. And if the Bruins are able to play just a little bit better than .500 hockey and go 7-6-0, it would force Ottawa to go 8-3-0 or 7-2-1 in order to pass them in the standings.
If the Bruins can just go something like 8-3-2 to finish with 101 points, it would all but eliminate Ottawa, forcing the Senators to go 10-1-0 or 9-1-1 in their final 11 games.
So as frustrating as the Bruins have been to watch recently, more of the same will more than likely be enough to hold on to that No. 2 seed (provided the Southeast division-leading Panthers don’t finish on a 9-4-0 tear, or something thereabouts).
Whether they’ll actually be able to turn it on come playoff time and take advantage of that home-ice advantage is another story. Some uninspired, .500 play, though, will be enough to put them in position.