3 Boston Bruins Players Who Need to Get Hot in Home Stretch
The Boston Bruins have just nine games left to edge the Montreal Canadiens in the race for the Northeast Division title, and they'll need some big performances down the stretch to hang on to their meager one-point lead in the standings.
Points are at a premium and clutch performances are bound to live long in the memory. So who can rise to the occasion and get the Bruins in gear as the postseason looms?
With Boston's once stable lineup in a state of post-trade deadline flux, a handful of players will have to earn their ice time while trying to push the team up the standings.
Here are three Bruins who need to get hot over the next few weeks.
1. Tyler Seguin
One year after leading the Bruins in both goals (29) and points (67), Tyler Seguin has failed to establish himself as a franchise player, at least for the time being.
The tremendously talented 21-year-old seemed bound for a breakout season after enjoying a remarkable lockout stint in Switzerland, during which he led the Swiss National League A in goals.
The second-overall pick in the 2010 draft has mustered just 13 strikes and 27 points this season, but he has the ability to go off on any given night.
Seguin has struggled of late, sorely missing the company of injured linemate Patrice Bergeron. After failing to impress during a trial as the Bruins No. 2 center, Seguin has recently spent time with Boston's third unit.
Bruins coach Claude Julien surely hopes that Seguin will respond to his reduced minutes with a late-season surge.
The winger hasn't registered points in consecutive games since mid-March, but he did score the game-winning goal against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night which could be a good omen.
Though he has lain dormant for significant portions of the season, he has shown hot-streak ability this season by posting 16 points in 16 games from February 15 to March 17.
If Bergeron returns to help him get into a rhythm, Seguin could still make a late run to lead the Bruins in points.
2. Chris Kelly
After missing 14 games with a broken tibia, Chris Kelly made his long awaited return in Boston's 6-2 victory over Carolina on April 8, and he should be crucial to his team's late season success.
The B's alternate captain had a hard time keeping up his offensive standards before his injury, scoring just twice in 24 games.
With his lack of production, and more recently his long term absence, the Bruins have struggled to find the type of depth scoring that Kelly used to routinely provide.
The hard-working two-way center has always been a great asset on the penalty kill, but he is most valuable when finding the back of the net.
The 32-year-old scored 20 goals last season while earning a remarkable plus-33 rating. If he can reach anything near that level, then he will make a major impact.
With his confidence likely at an all-time low, Kelly could get a major boost in the form of Swedish import Carl Soderberg who could join him on Boston's third line sometime in the next few days.
Soderberg led the Swedish Elitserien with 31 goals this year and could help Kelly rack up some points in Boston's final games.
3. Milan Lucic
Two years removed from a 30-goal season, Milan Lucic desperately needs to step up if he hopes to hang on to a top-six spot.
With just five goals and and 23 assists on the season, 'Looch' is bringing little more than his notorious edge to the rink this season. Though his physicality is not to be undervalued, his recent play has been more befitting of a grinder than an elite power-forward.
Having failed to score since March 25, the 24-year-old bruiser has a lot of work to do to justify the $18 million extension he signed last summer.
It has become increasingly clear over the past three years that Boston's first line lives and dies with Lucic. When he is shooting the puck early and often, in addition to banging bodies on the forecheck, David Krejci and Nathan Horton come alive.
While he wallows in a season-long slump, he seems to be holding his linemates back.
Perhaps replacing Horton with the ageless Jaromir Jagr could help awaken the slumbering giant on the left wing. Otherwise, Lucic seems destined for bottom-six minutes.
Lucic has proven himself as a goal scorer in the past, but his ability has come into question over the last two seasons.
Perhaps he simply needs to get angry in order to run off a serious point streak, so it would be unwise for any of the Bruins' remaining opponents to 'poke the bear.'