For the past several years, the Boston Bruins were considered playoff contenders. Losing players like Tyler Seguin, Reilly Smith, Milan Lucic, Dougie Hamilton, and Johnny Boychuck turned the expectations of both fan and analysts south.

In the 2014-15 season, Boston missed the playoffs for the first time in several years. They would go on to deal one of the members of their 2011 Stanley Cup core; Milan Lucic. Their former general manager Peter Chiarelli was fired, but not before landing the Bruins in salary cap jail. The tight cap made it difficult to improve the team and add goal scorers and defensemen to the roster.

Don Sweeney would take over the reigns as general manager and chose to keep Claude Julien as his head coach. The prospects of playoff contention looked ominous again for the Bruins at the beginning of the 2015-2016 campaign.

The team would rely heavily on the offensive production of players like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Loui Eriksson. Young players like Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak, and Landon Ferraro have been looked upon to step up and pick up some of the slack. Newcomers like Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes would have to make an impact.

The defensive depth on the blue line has become increasingly thin in the past few years. Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg remain as the teams backbone. Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid, and Kevan Miller would be looked upon to assist the aging Chara and Seidenberg. Luckily the Bruins have a top five NHL goaltender in Tuukka Rask to make up for some of the defensive deficiencies.

With everything to prove to fans in Boston, the Bruins have had managed to achieve an impressive 39-24-8 record with 11 games left to play. The Black and Gold trail the Florida Panthers by a single point for the Atlantic Division lead.

Will the Bruins be a real contender in the upcoming postseason? In the Eastern conference playoffs, they just might be. They have the third best record in their conference and have produced goals at one of the highest rates in the league. Marchand has elevated his game to an unexpected level and is on pace to hit the 40-goal mark. However, huge weaknesses remain on their blue line that have not been improved through 71 games. At times, they have looked downright pitiful defending their own end of the ice.

One of the main reasons for the Bruins success is tied into what is considered to be a weak Eastern Conference. Outside of the Washington Capitals, there is no powerhouse contender. The Canadiens, Penguins, Red Wings, and other teams have not been as strong as previous seasons. The Bruins have taken advantage of the conferences’ collective struggle.

Breaking down the Bruins record against some of the stronger opponents in the league does not reinforce confidence in the team heading forward. The B’s have played the Capitals/best team in their conference three times and lost every game. They have posted an impressive 29-13-5 record against the East, while struggling against the stronger Western conference with a record of 10-11-3. Boston has also been curiously weak at home in the TD Garden, with a record of only 16-16-5. They have exhibited an impressive ability to win on the road with a record of 23-8-3.

The Bruins are undoubtedly one of the stronger teams in the East but have struggled to produce wins against the top teams in the league. They have also shown that they struggle to win at home. If they can stay healthy — and receive a favorable first round matchup –anything can happen. Boston fans will hope that Washington is upset before the two teams would have to face each other in the playoffs.

A team that has consistently floundered against stronger competition, can’t win at home, and has a weak blue line doesn’t provide a ton of faith entering the playoffs. The Bruins will need a ton of luck and effort in order to go deep into the postseason. Tuukka Rask will have a tall task on his hands and core players like Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand will have a ton of weight on their shoulders. The young guys will need to continue to step up and follow the lead of David Pastrnak.

The Bruins might have success in the first round or two, but could also see a quick exit out of the playoffs if they don’t show up. For the Black and Gold, the playoffs will be an unpredictable challenge. Their prospects of moving on past the first round likely revolves on who they end up drawing as their opponent to start the playoffs.