Bruins on brink of postseason berth behind Craig Smith hat trick
With six games remaining the Bruins need just one point to punch a ticket to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. In the East division, the Penguins, Capitals and Islanders have all already done so.
The Bruins have put themselves a step away from playoff hockey thanks to a pair of wins over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden, including Saturday’s contest that featured Craig Smith’s first hat trick as a Bruin.
“I think they appreciate his lunchpail approach,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s got a great shot. They’re happy for him. Happy for him, happy for the whole line.”
After the first two goals, his linemates wanted to do everything they could to help Smith complete the hat trick, David Krejci especially.
"Krejci told me before the shift, he goes, 'Just get your stick down, I'm going to try to shoot it at you every time.' It just happened to be the first one he shot," said Smith. "I was laughing with him half the time."
Smith’s line Saturday continued a run that since the trade deadline has been downright silly. Since the trade for Taylor Hall, Smith, Krejci and Hall have combined for 16 goals and 34 points.
"He's a very popular guy in the room. Obviously, new to the group. We've talked about with COVID, it's a little tougher to get to know guys,” Cassidy said of Smith. "And that's typical Krech. He's looking for him the whole third period. Krech is obviously going to do the right thing. The game is still in hand, but at the same time, looking after a teammate. I think those guys have done that around here when they can.”
With Cassidy’s top-six locked in for a playoff run, figuring out the right combinations for lines three and four is the current task.
On Saturday, the third line of Nick Ritchie, Sean Kuraly and Charlie Coyle took another step forward with goals by Ritchie and Kuraly.
“It’s early, but I like the fact that we’ve been trying to build a bigger third line for the majority of the year. Coyle’s moving to the wing goes against what we’ve tried to do [at center], but you do what you have to do to build the best lineup and chemistry,” said Cassidy. “They do a lot of grunt work down the lineup, but Sean’s seeing more pucks.”
In the two games against the Sabres, the line accounted for three five-on-five goals while allowing one.
Kuraly’s role is certainly not an offensive one, but during his time in Boston he’s been known to step up and score some big goals here and there. His goal Saturday was his first in 31 games. A goal that hopefully jump starts things for him.
"I think the reaction says it all there," Kuraly said of his goal celebration. "It feels good. There's a lot of other things you try to take pride in, but you can tell by my reaction how that one felt."
Things are going well for the Bruins as the playoffs quickly approach. The top-six is as dominate as it has been in quite some time, they’re getting great goaltending from Tuukka Rask and Jeremy Swayman and with the addition of Mike Reilly, they’ve been playing well defensively.
And, to top it off, the Bruins expect Brandon Carlo to return in New Jersey either Monday or Tuesday.