The Boston Bruins snuck by with a win over Northeast Division rival Ottawa Senators in overtime Thursday night. Patrice Bergeron’s game-winning goal just barely rolled across the goal-line to give the Bruins their fifth consecutive win and thirteenth in seventeen games.
The extra-frame tally was initially waived-off by referees. Reviews showed the puck trickling across the line by a few scant inches, giving the Bruins the victory. Prior to the game-winner, Boston killed off a two minute penalty that bridged the end of regulation and overtime.
In the second period the teams traded goals, setting up the dramatic finish. Nathan Horton’s squibbed seeing-eye goal (via Dougie Hamilton’s eighth assist) was matched by Jim O’Brien’s powerplay tally minutes later. O’Brien’s score marked the first time the Bruins’ penalty-kill was beaten in 27 opportunities against.
Tuukka Rask stopped 30 of 31 shots faced earning his league-leading eleventh win of the season. At the other end of the rink, Robin Lehner continued to vex the Bruins, stopping 44 of the 46 against in the tough-luck loss.
In spite of the dramatics, the game marked another this season in which the Bruins’ allowed an overmatched squad the opportunity to climb back into the match. Despite outshooting the opposition for the twelfth time in seventeen games, they struggled to build and extend a lead versus a team with a significantly injury-diminished roster.
Still, a “W” is a “W”.
Consequently, the club rose to second place in the Eastern Conference with 28 points, trailing archrival Montreal by just one with three games in-hand. Even so, fans and analysts can’t help but be concerned by the unspectacular manner of their success:
The Bruins have seen five of their games head to overtime. The Bruins’ “Clear Victory” record stands at five and two. They’ve trailed in the majority of their games (10 of 17), scored more than four goals just once and took an empty-netter in their fifteenth contest for the team to achieve their first three-goal lead.
While their point percentage (.824, second in the NHL to the record-breaking Blackhawks) is daunting, this successful stretch is a far cry from the Bruins two-month run in November and December 2011. Over that span the team was outscoring opponents by nearly three goals per game, sporting a clear victory record of 16-1 and tallying at least five goals in half their contests.
The main ‘issue’ is the Bruins offensive production. With four empty-netters under their belt their goals per-game average is just a tick above middle-of-the-road (2.64 g/game).
That lack of production might be misleading. After the win against Ottawa, Boston owned the League’s second-best shot-production rate (32.8 sh/game). Several significant forwards’ (notably Patrice Bergeron, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin) shooting percentages are well below career averages.
Coupled with the franchise’s well-established difficulties with the man-advantage, Boston’s modicum of shooting misfortune has them eking-out far narrower margins than one might expect.
Whether luck or inadequate effort or execution lies behind the Boston Bruins’ opening stretch of unremarkable performances (despite the sterling record) they’ll need to improve if they have hope of maintaining their success as the schedule grows far tighter.
Follow Bob Mand on Twitter at @HockeyMand