BRIGHTON, Mass – After dutifully playing the second or third fiddle for most of this winter with little fanfare or hype surrounding their hockey club, it’s high time for the Boston Bruins to seize control of the Boston sports spotlight.
Certainly they’ll need to share some of it with a Boston Celtics team that looks ready for prime time as well even without Gordon Hayward, but the painful sight of watching the New England Patriots fall short in Sunday’s Super Bowl just opens the door for the real hockey season starting right now.
Clearly the backstage drama of tension, real or perceived, between the Krafts, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will be a topic of conversation long after the vision of a thrown ball slipping through Tom Brady’s hands has dissipated.
But it becomes much more about the games at this point, and both the Bruins and Celtics are putting out one heck of a product.
The Bruins are one of the biggest, best stories in the NHL this season with their intriguing mixture of established veteran Cup winners like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and their seemingly endless wave of talented young guys like Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk and Danton Heinen. But if you don’t believe this humble hockey writer, just look at some of the stupefying numbers they’re in the middle of producing.
This is a Bruins team that’s gone 25-4-4 since benching Tuukka Rask for four games in mid-November. This is a Bruins team that’s gone a ridiculous 49-19-9 over the last year under Bruce Cassidy since memorably sacking Claude Julien on the morning of the Patriots Super Bowl celebration through Boston.
This is a hockey team well worth your attention while looking for the next winning lottery ticket in Boston’s pro sports landscape. They’re not the Big Bad Bruins of old or even the rough and tumble crew that hoisted the Cup back in 2011, but they have the most dominant forward trio in all of hockey with the Perfection Line of Brad Marchand (when he’s keeping his prominent nose out of trouble), Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
All three forwards are on pace to top 35 goals this season, and are a combined plus-55 on the season while looking like hockey’s version of the Harlem Globetrotters against defenders with no prayer of stopping them.
They are fourth in the league averaging 3.2 goals per game, and tops in the NHL allowing a piddling 2.4 goals per game. They do pretty much everything well, and even showed the kind of backbone and hardnosed approach in wins last week vs. St. Louis and Toronto that could be a harbinger of some very good things in April and May.
In other words, this Bruins team is for real and people aren’t going to want to be too much tardier hopping on the Black and Gold bandwagon. Or they might miss the next thing to come along after Brady and Co. came up short on Sunday.
“Guys are obviously very competitive, we want to win every game and there were a lot of battles. You can see the guys were really stepping out of their comfort zone, skill guys making some big plays and determined to win the battles along the wall,” said Zdeno Chara. “Guys were physical, but also making plays…that is what you need from a [good hockey] team.”
The Bruins are in prime position comfortably rooted in second place in the Atlantic Division, they just vanquished their closest competitor last weekend with a dominant 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs and they have a legit chance to overtake the struggling for Tampa Bay Lightning atop the Atlantic Division.
With just 32 games remaining in the regular season, this is when the regular season will be at its height and this is when the attention traditionally starting picking up for the Black and Gold anyway. If any borderline Bruins fans needed a true palate cleanser after the way Claude Julien’s last few groups disappointed in most every way, then this is it going on right now nightly on the TD Garden ice.
“I think the intensity is only going to ramp up from here. The points – they’re important all year – but you start really seeing the teams, the numbers get crunched a little bit when you get into the latter part of the season,” said Adam McQuaid. “Everyone is playing and competing hard…it’s a fun time to be playing.”
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It’s also a fun time to be a fan of the Boston Bruins, and a fan of the Boston sports scene in general. Did you get your heart broken by the Patriots falling short in a highly entertaining Super Bowl shootout against Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles?
Well, just turn your attention to the Boston Bruins as the unquestioned best sports story of these winter months, and a hockey club fully worthy of your attention and admiration for the best still to come in this hockey season.