The Boston Bruins currently find themselves in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and second in the Northeast Division. They have a record of 22-15-7.
So far, this season hasn't exactly been what Bruins fans were expecting. After last year's incredible run, which had them finish second overall in the NHL at season's end and ended with a second-round Game Seven loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, expectations were the highest they have been in a while.
Still, this season hasn't been all that bad. The Bruins are still in the playoffs as of right now. If they get on a hot streak, they could very easily find themselves atop the conference by season's end. If they want that to happen though, five things need to change.
1. Trade for a goal scorer
If there is one area where the Bruins have taken a complete 180 from last year, it's in goal scoring. The Bruins were in the top five in goal scoring last year, but this year have struggled to find the back of the net. They rank 28th out of 30 teams in the NHL in scoring, averaging just 2.48 goals per game.
The only teams who score less are the Montreal Canadiens and the worst team in the league, the Carolina Hurricanes.
Rumors have been swirling for a couple of months now and it seems like a trade has to happen. A player that has been targeted is Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers. Kovalchuk is in the final year of his deal and could be a great addition to the Bruins. The trouble, though, is his contract, and the Bruins who have very limited cap space.
Kovalchuk also wants $10 million a year for his next contract and the Bruins simply can't afford that without dumping a lot of contracts in the process. Hoping to bolster the offense, the Bruins signed Miroslav Satan last week, but this just won't be enough. If the Bruins hope to make a serious run, they need to trade for a proven goal scorer.
2. Stay as healthy as possible
If there is one thing that has been killing the Bruins all season long, it is injuries. So far this year, it has seemed as though the Bruins just can't stay healthy. The last time the Bruins were 100 percent healthy was the opening game against the Washington Capitals.
Right now, the Bruins' leading point getter, Patrice Bergeron, is injured, Mark Stuart, one of the best defensemen, is out, and Marc Savard is expected to be out for the next three to four weeks. No one ever wants to blame injuries as the reason a team isn't playing well, but when you have so many key injuries, sometimes it is justified.
The Bruins have to stay healthy when these guys return to make a serious playoff run. They can't have these injuries to key players, or their season might be done before the playoffs.
3. Trade for a defenseman
Looking at the stats, most might think there'd be no reason to trade for a better defenseman. The Bruins rank fourth in the league in goals against, allowing just 2.32 goals a game. But that doesn't tell the real story.
Lately, the Bruins have struggled on the defensive end and have looked very confused in their own end at times. Dennis Wideman has been the worst. It seems every time this guy touches the puck, disaster isn't far behind.
Matt Hunwick, who is in just his second season, has struggled at times, as well. After having a great rookie season, he hasn't been the same this year. The Bruins have to think long and hard about trading for another defenseman if they want a shot at going deep into the playoffs.
4. Play a full 60-minute game
The Bruins have really struggled to play a full 60-minute game this year, which is very surprising considering that is one thing Claude Julien stresses the most.
A great example is last week's game against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks came in with the best record in the NHL, and this was a huge game for the Bruins. The B's jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, but all of a sudden stopped playing. The Blackhawks scored five unanswered to win the game 5-2.
If this continues to happen game in and game out, the Bruins can expect to go nowhere and will have a very disappointing finish to the season.
5. The Bruins have to decide who their goalie will be
The Bruins have had a goaltender controversy for the past couple of months now. Tim Thomas, who won the Vezina Trophy last year as the NHL's best goalie, has had his struggles this year.
On the other end, Tuukka Rask, who is Thomas' backup and in his first full year in the NHL, has done great. Tuukka got his chance to shine when Thomas went down with an injury early in the year. Rask took full advantage, showing why the Bruins traded for the goalie.
If the Bruins want to win in the future, they must decide who their goalie will now be. Most people are still leaning toward Thomas, saying that he is getting better and that you can't have $4 million sitting on the bench night in and night out.
I think the Bruins should start Rask more since he has been a bit better this year. I feel the team has a better shot to win with him in net.
These are the five things the Bruins will have to do if they want to make a strong run deep into the playoffs. They certainly have the team to do it. The Bruins will have a great shot at winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in 37 years if they can get these five things done.