When the NHL announced its plan for realignment over the summer, everyone was buzzing about the changes and how their favorite teams would be impacted. For the Boston Bruins, realignment meant moving from the Northeast Division to the new Atlantic Division. This transition strengthened their division by adding three teams, one of which was the Detroit Red Wings, a Western Conference power house for the last two decades. To compensate for the increased competition, the Bruins would have to find a way to improve upon last year’s success. Thus far, they have done just that.
Through 18 games this season, the Bruins have played nine games within their division. You don’t get extra points for divisional games, but when you can earn two points and hand a loss to a divisional opponent, it gives your team a bigger boost in the standings. In those nine games, the bruins have gone 8-1, with the one loss coming against Detroit in the fourth game of the season. Even more impressive is the fact that all eight wins have come in regulation. Out of a possible 18 points, the Bruins have come away with 16 points in their division. That stat gives you an idea how good the Bruins have been, but if you take a closer look, they have played an all-around better game against divisional opponents.
In recent years, the Bruins have been known for their outstanding penalty kill and their struggling power play. This season, it has been business as usual for the penalty kill, as the team ranks eighth in the league with an 86.2% success rate. That number was hurt by a rough stretch that saw the Bruins give up six power play goals in only four games. Since then, the Bruins have gone seven games without allowing a power play goal, successfully killing 26 consecutive penalties. Against divisional opponents, the penalty kill has been otherworldly, having allowed only one power play goal in 26 chance chances, giving them a 96.2% success rate. On top of the high success rate, they’ve scored their two shorthanded goals this season against the Tampa Bay Lightning, their new division rival, whom they have held without a power play goal through three games (13 chances). The penalty kill has more than risen to the occasion against the division this season, but what really stands out is the performance of the power play.
The power play, overall, has been better this year. On the season, they have converted 18.4% of their power play chances into goals. In terms of total goals, they have six power play goals through 18 games. The power play has been a top 10 unit against divisional opponents this season. Six of their nine power play goals have come against divisional rivals, resulting in a 21.4% success rate. To some degree, that suggests the team is picking their spots with the man advantage, stepping up for the most important games. At the same time, you have to wonder why the team has struggled so much more against non-divisional opponents, but that’s a whole different situation. If the special teams continue to produce like this, the Bruins will be a very difficult team to beat.
Given the results, the Bruins would enjoy playing their divisional rivals, new and old, more than six times a piece this season. The Bruins will take on the Ottawa Senators for the first time tonight, hoping to keep their hot streak going and improve to 9-1 against the division. After tonight’s contest, the Bruins will have faced every divisional opponent except for the hated Montreal Canadiens, who will host the Bruins for the first time in early December.