Bruins

NHL Notebook: Failure to go all in at deadline could have cost Bruins another deep Cup run

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Well, time to come clean.

By the time the dust settled following the NHL trade deadline back in February, I handed out some high praise for the Bruins, who managed to add a pair of wingers to their middle-six grouping in anticipation of another deep Stanley Cup run. 

Sure, Boston's deals for both Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie weren't exactly blockbusters, but given the B's needs and the cost to pry both wingers out of Anaheim, it seemed as though Don Sweeney checked off plenty of boxes when it came to putting this team over the top — and setting itself up for the future.

In Kase, Boston appeared to finally find a solution for the gaping hole on David Krejci's line. Even though Kase carried some uncertainty due to injury concerns and a lack of consistent production, the 24-year-old winger was an analytics darling, with his shot-first mentality meshing well with a pivot that likes to hold on to the puck and orchestrate plays like Krejci. Before heading over to Boston, Kase's 5v5 shots per 60 minutes rate of 10.38 ranked 15th among all NHLers (min. 500 minutes played). The lone Bruins skater that sits ahead of him on that list is David Pastrnak (10.8).

In Ritchie, Boston believed it finally had its big body that could scrap down low AND produce the offensive zone — something that an older veteran like David Backes couldn't consistently (and safely) provide. In place of the versatile, two-way talent of Danton Heinen, Ritchie was expected to be an equalizer against beefed-up teams like Tampa Bay in the postseason, with the former Anaheim forward's knack for hanging out down low serving as a potential remedy for Boston's stagnant 5v5 offense, with his individual 5v5 expected goals per 60 minutes rate of 0.87 ranking 28th overall among NHL forwards (min. 500 minutes played). That was tied for tops among all Bruins skaters with Pastrnak as well.

Add in the fact that the return Boston surrendered to get these two wingers didn't dismantle much of the B's already strong foundation of talent (Backes, Heinen, Axel Andersson and a 2020 first-round selection), the amount of cap space freed up as a result and the luxury of already having an already Cup-contending roster in place, and you could make the case that Boston did more than enough to put this roster in a prime spot for another deep playoff push.

Sure, Kase and Ritchie may not have carried the same impact and panache as other trade targets linked to Boston, such as Blake Coleman, Tyler Toffoli, Chris Kreider and Kyle Palmieri, but when weighing both the costs and potential fit, Don Sweeney said back in February that the moves Boston did make would support the expected production put forward by the B's core of veteran talent.

“These guys are driven to try and win,” Sweeney said of Boston's top players. “We give them as much as we possibly can. There’s never one defining moment of ‘This is our moment. This is our window,’ so to speak. We’re trying to look at last year, this year, next year and they’re a big part of it. They just want guys that are going to be pulling in the same direction as them, as hard as they’re willing to pull it."

And yet, with Boston now sitting on the brink of elimination by a Tampa Bay team that has outscored them, 11-2, over the last seven periods of play — it's only natural for one to imagine how different the B's current predicament would be had the club opted to swing for the fences this past winter.