The Boston Bruins have been an interesting team to watch throughout the first month of the season.
The team who had trouble scoring last season has the third-most goals in the NHL (47). The only problem is that this is the same club that has allowed the fourth-most goals to opponents (45). Boston has just one win in six home games (1-4-1) yet have the second-most victories away from TD Garden (6). The power play is a juggernaut while the penalty kill is being killed.
And yet through it all, Boston sits at 7-6-1 just outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture just a shade over a month into the season. In fact, they are as close to second place in the Atlantic Division and a wild card spot. Considering the Bruins started the season 0-3, most fans should be pretty content with the 7-3-1 mark they have put up since their winless start that saw Bruins Nation pull a collective Chicken Little.
So, what can we take away from the first month-plus of the season on Causeway Street?
Special Teams = Jekyll and Hyde
The Bruins are a special teams enigma.
Through the first month of the season, Boston’s power play leads the League in efficiency at 33.3% and goals on the man advantage (16). Through just 14 games, they are almost halfway to their total output on the power play last season when they scored 38 times. The Black and Gold have lit the lamp while up a man in 11 of their 14 games so far, including seven straight games dating back to October 27 against Arizona.
The Bruins possess the two leading scorers on the man advantage in Patrice Bergeron (four goals, nine points) and David Krejci (eight points) with Loui Eriksson’s four power play goals in the mix as well. They have developed a reputation for punishing opponents who dare take penalties against the B’s.
The Bruins have killed a penalty. This is not a drill. The Bruins have killed a penalty.
— Mike From Woburn (@MikeFromWoburn) November 8, 2015
Conversely, the penalty kill has killed Boston. They are rooted to the bottom of the NHL with a putrid 70.4% success rate while allowing the most goals to opponents (16). It also does not help matters much when the Bruins have been shorthanded 54 times, fourth-most in the League. Amazingly, their penalty kill at home is much worse (63.2%) than it is away from home (74.3%).
Poor coverage and untimely goaltending from Tuukka Rask have been their undoing while shorthanded. It’s a trend that cannot continue if the Bruins want any chance at a playoff spot.
Colin Miller’s Here To Stay
Coming into the season, one of the questions during training camp was who would start the year on the blue line. Colin Miller was one of the names that had been bandied about.
Well, he made the Opening Night roster and has not looked back since. The 23-year-old defenseman has played very well through 13 games scoring a goal and seven points and had his six-game point streak snapped in Brooklyn Sunday night. He has as many points, at least at the moment, as second-overall pick Jack Eichel in Buffalo and is second among rookie defensemen behind Colton Parayko in St. Louis.
It’s not just the mobility and booming shot that make Miller worthy of a permanent place on the blue line. The former Manchester Monarch has held his own in puck possession, as demonstrated by his 51.1% Corsi-For rating at even strength. Only Joe Morrow (51.9%) has a better Corsi at even strength among the defense corps for the Bruins than Miller.
It helps that the former fifth-round pick has started almost 56 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone but you can’t ignore the stat that for every 60 minutes he’s on the ice at even strength, the Bruins have allowed just 1.4 goals on average.
That number is the lowest on the team. Not too shabby for a rookie, eh?
Miller may not be in contention for the Calder Trophy but he’s quietly making a statement in Boston as an exciting prospect who could don Black and Gold for years to come.
Through a month in the Eastern Conference, we know two things. The Montreal Canadiens are the class of the East (if not the League) and the Toronto Maple Leafs aren’t very good even with Mike Babcock leading the charge.
In between the two lies a parity-filled conference in which six teams lie within five points of a wild-card spot. The Bruins sit just two points from Ottawa Senators for second-place in the Atlantic Division and one from the third-place Tampa Bay Lightning with two games in hand.
I know it sounds cliché, but this season has the makings of having every game being of critical importance to the Bruins and their quest for the playoffs. The top-eight in the East will have a turnover rate by the time all is said and done in April, so it’s important for Boston to find some consistency and pick up points all throughout the year.
If they want to taste playoff hockey, the Bruins will have to take care of business in their own division. So far, they are 2-3-0 in the Atlantic with a Sunshine State sweep over Florida and Tampa Bay. Business is about to pick up for Boston since, after Thursday night’s clash with Colorado, four of their next six games are against division foes.
Bruins fans should be strapped in for a wild regular-season ride as the Eastern Conference parity shows no signs of letting up.
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW