Bruins Playoff Chances with Hampus Lindholm

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On Saturday afternoon leading up to the NHL Trade Deadline, the Anaheim Ducks traded longtime defender Hampus Lindholm, along with defender Kodie Curran, to the Boston Bruins. In exchange, the Ducks received a 2022 first-round draft pick, a 2023 second, a 2024 second, defender Urho Vaakanainen, and defender John Moore.

Reviewing the Ducks’ Side

This is quite a haul for the Ducks, who are just starting to turn the corner in their rebuild and are looking for more pieces to accelerate and sustain the changes under new GM Pat Verbeek’s direction. Vaakanainen, the 18th overall pick in 2017, is nearly NHL ready, having played 31 games over the past four seasons including 15 in 2021-22. 

Vaakanainen will get more of a shot in the NHL with the Ducks. That chance, however, will have to wait as he has been on IR for nearly a month. This has been the biggest concern with his development as has frequently had seasons derailed due to various injuries. When he does return, however, the Ducks can expect him to be able to provide a quick and simple transition game to their middle and bottom lines, something a youthful and energetic team could make use of.

John Moore will provide the Ducks with a bit of defensive depth for the next season and a bit, but his $2.75M cap hit was likely moved to help Lindholm fit in the Bruins’ remaining cap space.

Reviewing the Bruins’ Side

The biggest part of the trade, being Lindholm, gives the Bruins some defensive depth they sorely needed. He was a top-pairing defender in Anaheim, averaging over 22 minutes per game so far this season. Although Boston had a lot of left defenders, none of them were necessarily top-pairing caliber defensemen. By bringing in someone like this, the Bruins can push everyone else down the lineup into more appropriate roles.

Lindholm as a player is primarily used as a shut-down and defensive defender, though he does have a strong two-way and transition game as well that is often overlooked. With Boston trying to make a playoff push against offensive juggernauts and divisional rivals like the Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Tampa Bay Lightning, he will be given an important role in shutting down the opponent’s top offensive players and powerplay units. 

This particular skillset was something the Bruins needed a bit more of. The team is already one of the best in the league for goals against, but heading into the playoffs, they will want to address the depth-related hole in the lineup.

On the top-pairing, Lindholm will be paired with Charlie McAvoy, so the Bruins do not need him to be a huge offensive contributor. But he is capable of it, having put up around 30 points in past seasons. We can expect him to chip in more with Boston as he gets chances to play with forwards like Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak, but any of that is just a bonus to go alongside the defensive play that he was brought in for.

The Bruins are in tough this season trying to make a deep playoff push. With a ton of roster turnover from the past couple of seasons revealing some holes in the lineup, the team had a slower start and took some time to get into their groove. At this point, they’ve more than caught up and sit comfortably in a wild card spot. The Atlantic Divison is becoming the new Thunderdome, though, with four of the top ten teams in the league being from this division. The aforementioned Panthers, Maple Leafs, and Lightning will make it extremely difficult for the Bruins come playoff time.

What will the Impact be for Boston?

How will this trade affect the Bruins’ playoff chances? Well, Lindholm’s arrival will give the Bruins the defensive depth to better match their opponents. He will certainly help level the playing field and give the team someone that can reliably deal with difficult minutes. Additionally, he might be someone who can compliment McAvoy’s style.

It seems unlikely that this move will significantly change the tide of the division’s playoff picture with other teams still being far favored over Boston. But let’s not forget the Bruins are an experienced team that knows the playoff grind. Given how they’ve caught up in the standings and are right on the tails of their biggest competition, it is not unrealistic to think that the Bruins could band together and make some noise this postseason.

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Sean is a lifelong, stubborn Oilers fan who somehow still has hope that next season will be the year. Hockey is his biggest interest and hobby, so he follows the whole league as closely as he can.