Bruins will show us who they are during brutal upcoming schedule originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

We’re going to learn a lot about the Boston Bruins over the next 19 days. Put simply, this is the toughest part of their schedule — not just the remaining portion but the whole 82-game slate.

It’s full of challenges.

Not only do they play 11 games in a short amount of time, six of them are on the road and seven are against teams currently in a playoff spot, including one against the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights and two games each versus the red-hot Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

This 11-game stretch is a huge reason why the Bruins have the third-toughest remaining schedule.

The Bruins have exceeded expectations all season. Most experts thought they’d still be a playoff team despite losing so many significant players in the offseason, most notably Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tyler Bertuzzi, Taylor Hall, Dmitry Orlov and others. But having the third-best record in the NHL on Feb. 21? No way.

And yet, that’s where the Bruins find themselves ahead of their most grueling road trip of the season. The B’s enter Tuesday in second place in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division with a 33-12-11 record. They trail the Florida Panthers — who have won six consecutive games — by one point for first place in the division.

Keeping pace with the Panthers will be tough over the next week, though. The Bruins start a four-game journey through Western Canada and Seattle on Wednesday in Edmonton against an Oilers team that owns a league-leading 20-3-0 record since Dec. 21. It continues Thursday with the second of a back-to-back in Calgary. The Flames beat the Bruins 4-1 in Boston earlier this month and trail a playoff spot by just three points. The Bruins then travel to play the league-leading Canucks on Saturday before going to Seattle for a Monday night matchup versus the Kraken.

The Bruins return home for a Feb. 29 game against the Golden Knights, beginning a stretch of six games in 12 days. It includes two matchups versus the Leafs, another against the Oilers, plus meetings with the Penguins and Blues.

How the Bruins perform during this period will A) Tell us if they really are an elite team and not just a good squad that’s overachieved, and B) Whether this group is worth investing in before the trade deadline.

A bunch of the Bruins’ weaknesses were front and center during the seven-game homestand that concluded Monday. Can head coach Jim Montgomery and the players find the solutions to these problems on the road?

The biggest one is the penalty kill. Boston’s PK ranks 28th in the league since Dec. 27. Will the Bruins do a better job defending the front of their net? They rank 23rd in high-danger shot attempts allowed, per Natural Stat Trick. Will the Bruins protect late leads? They are 26th in win percentage when leading after two periods, a stark difference from last season when they ranked No. 1 in this category. Can some of their middle-six forwards find some consistency offensively? Jake DeBrusk hasn’t scored in nine games.

Jake DeBrusk

The Bruins need more consistency offensively from middle-six forwards like Jake DeBrusk.

If the Bruins players want management to make upgrades to the roster before the trade deadline, this is the last best opportunity to show that with their on-ice performance.

It won’t be easy for general manager Don Sweeney to make substantial moves. The Bruins lack quality trade assets — both in terms of draft capital and prospects — and have the second-lowest amount of salary cap space in the league right now, per CapFriendly. But if the Bruins dominate this upcoming stretch of their schedule, how could Sweeney not do something to improve the roster?

The Bruins are a good team. The future is bright. They have transitioned to their next core seamlessly. They will qualify for the playoffs for the eighth season in a row, extending the longest active streak in the league.

But are they a great team? Is this group really in the upper echelon of Stanley Cup contenders? Can they consistently beat the sport’s best teams, many of whom play a punishing playoff style, and do it on the road? We’ll have a much better idea of the answers to these questions over the next 19 days.

Buckle up. It’s going to be exciting, whichever way it unfolds.

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