When the Boston Bruins failed to add a top-six forward at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, many fans considered this deadline to be a failure. General manager Don Sweeney would add defender Hampus Lindholm – who looked excellent in his first game in Boston but would strike out on adding either a second-line center or a right-winger to play with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. If you ask some people, there was a dire need for both positions to be filled for the Bruins to make a deep playoff run.
Since the deadline, though, the Bruins have gone 2-0-0 (both games coming within the division) and passed the Tampa Bay Lightning for third place in the Atlantic Division. Though Marchand and David Pastrnak scored five of the Bruins’ six goals in these contests, Erik Haula’s contributions shouldn’t be ignored.
Notching assists on all five of the goals scored by Marchand and Pastrnak, Haula would also record his first three-assist game Thursday in a victory against the Lightning (just one day after his 31st birthday). It’s been a very impressive offensive showing for Haula who is on pace to have the second-highest point total of his career this season.
Finding new life since being put on a line with Pastrnak and Taylor Hall, Haula has turned his season around after a rough start tempered expectations for him early in the year. Recording one goal and three points in the first 17 games of the season, Haula was even made a healthy scratch early in the year.
Rather than letting this obstacle deter him and diminish his attitude, though, Haula knew that he had to be better and used this lesson as fuel to build upon.
“When he sat out in November, he was up front,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy. “He didn’t think he was playing his best hockey. Did he want to sit out? No. But he said, ‘Listen, when I go back in, I get it, I’ll be better.’”
Things did get better for Haula as the veteran center would be revitalized on the team’s second line. Recording seven goals and 25 points in 36 games since Jan. 1. For context, that ties Haula with Charlie McAvoy for the fourth-most points among Bruins’ skaters in that time frame.
Haula Has Experience Playing in His Current Role
Haula may not be the perfect top-six center to play in a deep playoff push, but he’s been filling in well for the Bruins in this role and also has familiarity with the spot as well from his time with the Vegas Golden Knights. While playing with Golden Knights during their inaugural 2017-18 season, Haula would be moved up and down the lineup and would score a career-high 29 goals and 55 points in 76 games. He’d also add another three goals and nine points in 20 playoff games that season.
“I’ve been in the same exact situation before in my career with Vegas,” said Haula of his role with the Bruins. “And so, it was important to me to take that spot, take that role, be at your best. And most importantly, it’s nice to know that Taylor and David like to play with me, and that builds confidence as well. I’ve played with those guys now for a while and I feel good there. I want to be at my best for those guys and for the team. It’s going to be important.”
Haula has had a tendency of getting hot at times this season and if the last two games are any sign of things to come, the Bruins’ second line could continue to buzz with Haula down the middle for the foreseeable future.
Related: Bruins Third Line Can Be a Difference Maker
It’s been an interesting time for the Bruins because despite having some holes in their lineup, the entire top-nine has been playing so well that it’s been hard to really complain about a whole lot at five-on-five from a game-to-game basis. The Bruins’ power play has struggled without Patrice Bergeron in the lineup, but once he’s back the Bruins will undoubtedly be better in all three phases. The good news for the team is that Bergeron will likely return to action Saturday against the New York Islanders.
Even with Bergeron out of action, though, the Bruins have got things done and should continue to climb the standings if they can keep this hot stretch going.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.