The Boston Bruins are the best team in the NHL.
Sure, it’s a little less than one month into the regular season and certainly there is a wariness about what the second half of the year is going to bring.
But after playing the first dozen games of the year, the Bruins are right at the top of the heap in points (9-1-2), have the league’s leading goal scorer, boast the top trio in all of hockey with the dominant Perfection Line and have the NHL’s best goaltending as well in Tuukka Rask.
David Pastrnak leads the NHL with 12 goals scored, is second behind Leon Draisaitl with his 24 points in 12 games and both Pastrnak and Brad Marchand sit in the top-5 on the NHL points leaderboard. Rask leads all NHL goalies by a wide margin with a 1.41 goals against average and a .951 save percentage — which actually got worse in a 5-1 smoking of the San Jose Sharks earlier this week.
The Perfection Line has 24 goals in 12 games, and has racked up 57 points over that span. Basically Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak are good for two goals per game, and that’s what entire teams like the Dallas Stars and Chicago Blackhawks are averaging right now. That is a stunningly dominant offensive weapon for the Bruins and something that’s allowed them to get the early lead against almost every team they’ve played.
So, the Black and Gold are pretty, pretty good, and this humble hockey writer would say they are the NHL’s best.
Just don’t expect the Bruins to make those kinds of proclamations as long as their 42-year-old captain still has a say about it.
“We still have a long way to go. We’re a few games into the season, so we still have to work and find ways to improve,” said Zdeno Chara.
As we saw in the Stanley Cup Final last June, being “the best” might not matter when it comes to a seven-game series against a team that can physically punish you, but right now the B’s are the best by pretty much any measure you can throw at them.
Perhaps most encouraging of all is that the Bruins know full well that they aren’t at the very tip-top of their potential yet. As was the case last year, they are too reliant on their top line and power play to carry them offensively. But that has begun to change over the last couple of weeks, helped by Brett Ritchie looking more like a power forward who could help the Bruins, and the emergence of speedy, skilled Anders Bjork as a guy who could be an impact player for the middle-6 group of forwards as his confidence comes back.
“We’re getting there. I think these past four, five, six games, we’ve progressively tightened up and played more our style where teams have got to earn their way out there. I thought at the start of the year we were a little bit too loose, even though our goals against was down. I thought that was a product of probably our goaltenders and [our team] playing the right way once we got the lead,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I see us more start to finish now, playing that way. Nobody’s going to be at 60 minutes every night at this time of the year. You’re still figuring out your team and guys are still getting going, but we’re getting closer.
“I like where we’re at, playing good times. I don’t care what San Jose’s record are, to me they’re a good hockey team. They’ve proven that over the years. They’ve got good players, good coaching and they’re a strong team. We want to be equal to the task. I thought that it was a good measuring-stick game in that sense, from a team from the West.”
The Bruins were more than equal to the task in Tuesday night’s win over the Sharks, where it looked like boys versus men on the ice when it came to actual hockey skills, and the Bruins effectively had tough guy opportunist Evander Kane running away from them when it came time to answer for his running around during the game.
Certainly, the Bruins are getting pushed in the Atlantic Division right now by the surprising Sabres, and one would expect that both the Lightning and Maple Leafs will eventually get their collective acts together to push the Black and Gold.
In their own right, the B’s just welcomed David Krejci back from an injury-plagued October, so his return will finally allow the Bruins to slot their forward group as they planned ahead of the season. That means three forward lines that can attack offensively, led by centers Patrice Bergeron, Krejci and Charlie Coyle, and the kind of depth that’s going to overwhelm lesser teams like the Sharks and Rangers, which is exactly what transpired in the last couple of games.
“You want to take each game one at a time and focus on each game while taking care of business. Obviously that top line is going and we’re feeling good. It gives us a good chance to win games,” said Coyle. “But other guys are pulling the rope too and giving what they can do bringing a different element, whether it’s on the score sheet or not. And the goaltending has been just awesome. There’s a lot clicking right now. We want to hopefully keep it going.”
The trick now will be to keep it going and somehow weather through the dog days of February and March when the “Stanley Cup Final hangover” will take full effect, sapping their energy and slowing their skating legs. But for now the Bruins are the best team in the NHL and they’re consistently showing it every single night with a good deal of unfinished business in their minds left over from last season’s bitter finale.
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