By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
Statistically speaking, the Boston Bruins are not the best team in the NHL. Despite being the team that has scored the third highest amount of goals (64), has the second least amount of goals allowed (39) and has the highest goal differential of any team in the league (+25), the Bruins aren’t even in the top ten.
Blame it on their 3-7 start; a product of a lazy hockey when the team got a bit too comfortable after their summer with the Cup, showing little signs of passion and not playing effectively for the full 60 minutes. Eight straight wins later, good enough for an undefeated November, and the Bruins have turned things around in a big, bad way.
When looking at the teams the Bruins have beaten in their torrid streak (Senators, Maple Leafs, Islanders (twice), Oilers, Sabres, Devils and the Blue Jackets), one may notice the lack of big-time, marquee teams. Those seven teams have a combined record of 62-60-11 and range from currently being the two bottom teams in the NHL (Islanders and Blue Jackets), to two of the best (Maple Leafs and Sabres). The Bruins haven’t crushed the Penguins nor have they embarrassed the Flyers or Capitals. Hell, they haven’t even beat the Canadiens yet. But lately, the Bruins have been playing a different kind of hockey.
The Bruins have been crippling their adversaries. In the past eight contests, the Bruins have outscored their opponents, 42-14, scoring 5.25 goals per game and allowing only 1.75. In their first 10 games, it was Boston that was outscored, 25-22.
The 22 points have allowed the Bruins to sneak into a premature playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, only one point away from 9th place and two points out of first in the Northeast Division. Three weeks ago, they sat in last place in the East, 29th in the NHL, a far cry from June 15 when they raising Lord Stanley’s Cup in Vancouver.
It’s the confidence that the Bruins have built up that have made them successful once again. Claude Julien moved Tyler Seguin onto a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on October 29 against the Montreal Canadiens—the last time that the team loss. Since then, the now-presumably first line has combined for 14 goals and 18 assists (Seguin: 8-4=12, Bergeron: 2-7=9, Marchand: 4-7=11).
While that newly formed line certainly jaunted the B’s offense, there have been plenty other key contributors as well. During the eight-game win streak, Zdeno Chara has a goal and nine assists, Milan Lucic (5G, 3A) and Nathan Horton (4G, 4A) have eight points apiece and even defensive-forward Chris Kelly has been apart of the offense, scoring four goals and assisting on three others.
Boston’s goaltending has been superb with Tuukka Rask picking up three straight wins with Tim Thomas earning the tally in the five others, two of which were shutouts.
The Bruins seem to be doing everything right. For now.
The first half of November was loaded with a lighter schedule, free of the teams that usually give Boston problems. In the second half, the Bruins will face the Montreal Canadiens, a Buffalo Sabres team looking to avenge Ryan Miller (spoiler alert: they won’t), the Detroit Red Wings, the Winnipeg Jets the following night and then they will wrap up November against the Maple Leafs in Toronto.
Color everyone impressed with the way the Bruins are manhandling teams, but bigger tests still await the defending Cup champions.
Although, if the first 19 days of November were any indication what the 2011-12 Boston Bruins were capable of, it’s going to be a long for the rest of the NHL.
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