Thanksgiving. It’s a tradition that goes back to the pilgrims almost 400 years ago. People of all backgrounds come together for a day to reflect on the things they are thankful for. Family and good health are two of the most common ones that you hear, year in and year out.
That is of course before these same people go out and trample each other on Black Friday for priceless material goods. Oh, the irony.
The Boston Bruins and their fans will have better things to do the day after Thanksgiving. Their annual Black Friday matinée is back after the schedule makers gave Boston’s traditional 1pm start time to the Philadelphia Flyers last year. A tough battle awaits as the surging New York Rangers will visit TD Garden for the only time this year.
Bruins officially move into the playoff structure with tonight's win. Thanksgiving is Thursday. Notable.
— Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin) November 24, 2015
Before we get to that, it’s time to reflect on the first quarter of the NHL season in Boston. The Bruins have taken their fans on a ride that resembles a roller-coaster so far yet they currently sit in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference thanks to three straight victories. The latest of which came in Toronto after a David Krejci shootout goal gave the B’s a 4-3 win in a very entertaining Original Six clash.
Wednesday night’s matchup in Detroit against the Red Wings could vault the Black and Gold into a top-three spot in the Atlantic Division before Turkey Day if they secure two points in regulation.
Bruins Nation has much to celebrate and be thankful for as Thursday comes closer. After all, where would the B’s be without the following things?
A Healthy David Krejci
Speaking of Krejci, he will not want to have fond memories of last season. Various injuries collaborated to cost the 29-year-old center 35 games while the Bruins struggled to generate offense without their top playmaker.
This year has seen the exact opposite. Krejci has maintained his health through the first 20 games of the season, leading Boston in scoring with 22 points. The second-round pick in 2004 topped the League scoring charts for the better part of October and sits tied for seventh overall.
It’s not a coincidence to see the Bruins offense flourishing with Krejci’s presence as they currently sit third in the NHL for goals/game (3.25). He has played a part in over a third of Boston’s 65 goals scored this year.
The 6’0 pivot man is also making the linemates surrounding him better, especially winger Loui Eriksson. The Swede is carrying the momentum he gathered last season into this one, scoring 18 points in 20 games as Krejci’s right-hand man. Eriksson is starting to look like the player Bruins fans thought they were getting when acquiring him as part of the Tyler Seguin deal.
His performance will leave general manager Don Sweeney with a decision to make as Eriksson is due to hit the open market in the summer.
Regardless, Krecji’s presence is the key cog in Boston’s offensive machine this season.
A Prolific Power Play
Speaking of offense, raise your hand if you thought the Bruins power play would be tops in the League through 20 games.
Anyone? Hello? Bueller?
Trying to remember the last year the Bruins power play was this good.
— Jon Wallach (@KenGriffeyRules) November 18, 2015
Well, the statistics don’t lie. Claude Julien’s bunch lead the way on the power play, operating at 32.3% efficiency. It’s amazing to think a defensive-minded coach of Julien’s ilk could conjure up such success on the man advantage yet the Bruins are leading the League with PPGs (20) and have scored over 30 percent of their total goals while up a man.
Under the current regime, the current benchmark for power play success came back in the 2008-09 campaign (23.6%). At this pace, the 2015-16 squad will shatter that mark.
Patrice Bergeron is driving the unstoppable force that is Boston’s special teams success. The lifelong Bruin leads the NHL in power play points (12) and is tied with Eriksson for the team-lead in PPG (5).
Brad Marchand is also doing some damage on the man advantage. The pesky winger is earning increased power play time and is repaying the faith Julien has shown in him. Marchand already has as many goals a man up this season through 18 games (3) than his previous 159 games.
Oh, and he has two shorthanded goals as well. Not too shabby.
It’s weird to think Bruins fans would be thankful for a backup goalie but this season is the exception to the rule.
Jonas Gustavsson earned his Black and Gold stripes through a professional tryout and subsequent one-year contract signed prior to the season. The 31-year-old has given Boston a reliable backup to spell Tuukka Rask when he needs a rest.
“The Monster” is 4-1-0 with a goals-against of 2.20 and while his save percentage is just .914, Gustavsson has allowed just six goals at even strength on 103 shots (.942). Given the struggles that Rask has endured to this point in the season, it’s been crucial for the Bruins to get strong performances from their number two.
Gustavsson has done just that, possibly earning some more playing time in the process. The 6’3 shot stopper has come better than advertised and is giving the Bruins confidence they can roll him out consistently.