Six months ago, some people did not think that the Boston Bruins would make the playoffs this year. The people that predicted that they would make the playoffs for the third year in a row did not think they would be a contender for the Stanley Cup once spring time rolled around.
The fans that did not predict success had reasons for negativity. At around the time of the American Thanksgiving last November, the Boston Bruins were banged up.
Injuries to veteran leaders in Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara and injuries to young defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo were bound to sink the Boston Bruins chances for success this season. At one point, five defenseman were hurt.
While it is never good to have so many players either completely out of game action or not playing as many minutes as they normally do, there were some positives that came out of it.
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Injuries allowed players who did not receive much ice time the chance to show their skills while playing in more difficult situations and allowed some of the Providence Bruins players the chance to make their NHL debuts. Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton are two examples of players who contributed big time.
Grzelcyk was promoted to the Bruins when the team had injuries early last season and has never looked back. During the regular season, the 2016 Boston University graduate went from barely playing 10 minutes a game to playing top defenseman minutes.
Even when the defense became healthier, the coaches could depend on Grzelcyk in many situations. He took his success one step further by scoring his first career two-goal game in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday.
Connor Clifton, a 2017 Quinnipiac University graduate, made his NHL debut in mid-November and got in a fight in his first game.
He was sent back to Providence a few weeks later but continued to improve there. He has been back with the Boston Bruins since March and has been in and out of the lineup during the playoffs. Clifton scored his first NHL goal, which was the game winner, on Sunday.
To have players that can step into the line-up and fit in without too many dramas is of huge benefit; for those players to still be contributing this deep into the play-offs is remarkable. It shows that they were more than ready for the step up.
End of the day, the ultimate goal for the Boston Bruins is to win a Stanley Cup for the first time since 2011. No matter the outcome though, the Boston Bruins have had a successful season despite many challenges and obstacles; their future looks bright.