The NHL season is a grind, especially in this year’s shortened 56-game slate. Although it is not as long as usual, the NHL is packing in more games per week for each team. With as many as four games a week, with many on back-to-back nights, players have little opportunity to rest. This makes it more difficult to sustain high levels of play for an extended period of time. Some can do it better than others. Each week, we will take a look at players on the Boston Bruins who are on a hot or cold streak. This week we look at Craig Smith and Sean Kuraly.
Hot and Cold Streaks
Hot Streak: Craig Smith
What else is there to say when a third-line player has more points in a week than anyone else on the roster? Craig Smith has done just that and it’s earned him this week’s hot streak. After joining the Bruins in the offseason via free agency, many viewed this as yet another attempt to add a winger to David Krejci’s side. Although Smith hasn’t always played there, he has been decent for Boston this year. With four points in four games this week, he put his skill set on full display.
It’s not like Craig Smith just put up four secondary assists and called it a week. Smith was actively involved in scoring plays. In fact, he had three goals over the last week. One of those goals proved to be the game-winner against the New York Islanders, a team Boston has struggled mightily against this year. He was also instrumental in the game against the Buffalo Sabres. With a goal and assist in that game, he was truly a difference-maker. Without his impact on the two goals, Boston could have very well lost in a game that should have been a walk in the park.
Cold Streak: Sean Kuraly
Let’s be very clear. Sean Kuraly is a fourth-line player. No one is expecting him to be putting up multi-point nights on a regular basis. He didn’t have any points this week, but that isn’t what earned him this week’s cold streak. What really put him on the downswing was his discipline. Boston has struggled to put together more than two wins in a row for several weeks. When you find yourself on the penalty kill too many times, that’s going to hurt your chances of winning.
Kuraly put his team on the penalty kill a total of eight times this past week. He did it once against the Washington Capitals in an 8-1 beatdown. While his penalty really didn’t have much of an impact on the outcome of that game, his Friday night outing against the Islanders could have resulted in a very different final score. Kuraly took three penalties in that game. The final score was 3-0. If Jeremy Swayman didn’t stand on his head for his first career shutout and the Bruins didn’t have the league’s best penalty-killing unit, we could have seen a very different outcome.