The 2022-2023 Boston Bruins have had a season for the ages. Before the season began, the firing of Bruce Cassidy and the hiring of Jim Montgomery were seen as highly-divisive moves. Yet, it seems that Don Sweeney’s Golden Horseshoe is still up there, just enough that everything he does works out (sans DRAFTING and getting David Pastrnak locked up).
Going into the 2023 trade deadline is a very difficult spot for Sweeney. The Bruins are the best team in the NHL by far, sporting 91 points; in February. They are on pace to surpass the NHL single-season wins record of 62.
They also lead the NHL in goal differential, with an almost comical +92.
The next two teams in the category are the Carolina Hurricanes and the Maple Leafs. They both sport a paltry +44 goal differential.
So what gives? Why mess with what is working? Pundits and talking heads seem to agree the Bruins lack playoff-quality depth on the blue line. If that is the case, what are some of the options they are exploring?
Gavrikov is a prototypical, stay-at-home defenseman. While the Bruins are undoubtedly scoring at-will in stretches, there is a certain lockdown defensive element that can be more than shaky at times.
The +92 goal differential points to a solid defensive team that locks other teams down and scores above average. However, if you’ve watched the Bruins this season, that number can be misleading. The Bruins offense has been a juggernaut. Their goalie tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman have been two of the best goalies in the league. Ullmark is up for a Vezina nod. They’ve both needed to be at times. The Bruins defense can hardly be categorized as “shut down” as a total unit.
So is adding Gavrikov to the already impressive top-two D of Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm something of a need?
I believe so.
Is the Bruins Defense Suspect?
The biggest test of a D-corps is during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The physicality, shortening of pairings and using matchups can often lead to top defensemen accruing massive minutes.
While McAvoy and Lindholm have proven to be both shut-down defensemen and very mobile with the puck, the Bruins do lack a true stay-at-home anchor.
Derrick Forbort has had an outstanding season, and he has contributed greatly while not being expected to do so. He can tend to be a bit shaky on his own end, however.
Matt Grzelcyk is one of the team leaders in Plus-Minus, but that is skewed by his pairing partner and his power play minutes. He can’t be counted on to clear the front of the net with his size.
Brandon Carlo is a wild card. You never know what’s gonna happen there. Usually, injury, unfortunately. While Connor Clifton just seems to be riding the wave.
When it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, having a lock-down defenseman available as a third option can prove to be an ace-in-the-hole. Especially when it comes to setting matchups in penalty-killing and power-play situations.
If Don Sweeney can make the money work and clear cap space while not depleting the already thin amount of future prospects like Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei to acquire Gavrikov, it would be a massive step towards bringing Cup number 7 to Causeway Street.
None of that will matter, however, if he can’t resign Pastrnak.