By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent
It’s hard to remember a point this season when the Boston Bruins weren’t near the top of the standings. But that was the case just three months ago.
Now a familiar story, Boston sat at 3-7-0 following an October 29th loss to Montreal. In the next 25 games, they’ve put up an otherworldly record of 21-3-1.
Boston holds a +55 goal differential, which is best in the league. Tim Thomas is 16-6, has a 1.94 GAA, and a .939 save percentage. Not to be outdone, Tuukka Rask has rebounded from an off year in 2010-2011 with a 8-4-1 record, 1.61 GAA, and a .945 save percentage.
Second year phenom Tyler Seguin is the team’s leading scorer, on pace for 35 goals, 40 assists, and 75 points. A big upgrade from his 22 point freshman campaign.
Heck, even Chris Kelly is on pace for nearly 30 goals.
Boston has been proving that they can win in many different ways, in different situations, and with big performances from a variety of players. This dominance hasn’t gone unnoticed.
But if anyone should know just how quickly regular season success can be forgotten in the post-season, it should be the Bruins. They defeated last season’s President Trophy winners in the Cup Final, swiftly erasing any satisfaction the city of Vancouver may have felt, and making this fall’s Western Conference Championship banner raising ceremony slightly embarrassing.
With post-season success in mind, if the playoffs started today, who would be the most dangerous opponent for Boston? The other seven seeds include the Winnipeg Jets, Ottawa Senators, New Jersey Devils, the ever dangerous Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, and upstart Florida Panthers.
Obviously, it goes unsaid that anything can happen in the playoffs. Still, it’s hard to imagine Winnipeg, Ottawa, New Jersey, or even Florida matching the Bruins depth. Philadelphia is always a threat, with or without Chris Pronger. Pittsburgh is without Sidney Crosby but remain a very dangerous hockey club.
Given the surprising turnaround the New York Rangers have had this season, they appear to be a team gaining confidence and momentum. Yet, there’s something reminiscent of the 2008-2009 Boston club in the Rangers’ resurgence. No doubt a talented club, if not guilty of over-achieving, it’s hard to be fully confident in the Blueshirts ability to keep up their current pace.
While Boston has been racking up the wins, they haven’t all been blowouts. On some nights, they were outplayed for most of the game, but benefited from a few lucky bounces which could have easily gone the other way. Their 2-1 shootout victory over Columbus (11/17), and last week’s victory over the Phoenix Coyotes were prime examples of Boston falling backwards into the win column.
This could be a sign of complacency, and their performance in the loss to Dallas on New Year’s Eve seemed to indicate the Bruins may be on auto-pilot. All things considered, if mid-season complacency is the only item on a coach’s “to-do list”, things are going pretty well.
The best thing Boston could ask for at this point would be a little adversity. Sooner or later, Boston will go on a losing streak. The bounces won’t be going in their favor, and the pucks won’t be finding the back of the net. Before the world crowns this team as the Bruins squad ever, it may be smart to wait and see how they pick themselves up once they come back down to Earth.