Why deny it? The Bruins are the best team in the NHL right now

Why deny it? The Bruins are the best team in the NHL right now

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.

Bruins break out great Halloween costumes>>>>>

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Bruins encouraged by losing effort in Washington: 'That's the kind of hockey we want to play'

Bruins encouraged by losing effort in Washington: 'That's the kind of hockey we want to play'

WASHINGTON  – It might have been the Bruins' fourth loss in a row and, for the first time all season, the B's have lost three consecutive regulation games, but there were glimmers of hope in the 3-2 defeat at hands of the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena.

The Bruins marched out to a 1-0 lead after David Pastrnak’s first goal in five games and it would have been a two-goal lead early in the game if a silly offsides challenge that had nothing to do with the actual goal hadn’t overturned Patrice Bergeron’s power-play strike.

So, the Bruins had a better start than they have had recently, had a solid three periods of play while outshooting the Capitals 32-25 and played with more engagement, effort and urgency than they have shown in a couple of weeks. It was certainly encouraging that the Bruins are turning the corner back toward consistently good efforts rather than some of the forgettable, unfocused efforts of the past couple of weeks. Still, it was again a loss. 

“We’re all frustrated, but as a coach, you like how the 60 minutes transpired better than some of the other nights. We were in the game, right there and very easily could have won the game,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Two or three things probably changed that, but in terms of a 60-minute effort we’re getting a lot closer to where we want to be.”

The good news is that the Bruins leadership group sees light at the end of the tunnel with another big game against the Tampa Bay Lightning awaiting them 24 hours later. 

“I thought that’s the kind of hockey that [we] want to play and you want to get back to,” said Bergeron of a Bruins team that’s taken just one out of a possible eight points in their last four games. “There are still some things to rectify with us coming up short, but we’re trending in the right direction. But it’s a short turnaround with the game [against Tampa Bay].”

The Bruins are still sitting on a 10-point lead in the division over Buffalo and Montreal despite having dropped four in a row, so there’s clearly no panic or feeling like their backs are against the wall. On the contrary, that might be part of the lack of urgency that’s crept into the B’s game the past couple of weeks, but they showed Wednesday night that they still have a solid, consistent effort in them when the mood strikes them.

Perhaps the good, honest and hard-working losing effort against the Capitals can spin the Bruins back into a winning direction with a couple of road games in Florida staring them in the face.

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Bruins-Capitals Talking Points: Too much Oshie, not enough DeBrusk

Bruins-Capitals Talking Points: Too much Oshie, not enough DeBrusk

WASHINGTON - GOLD STAR: All T.J. Oshie did was score a couple of goals that powered the Capitals for all of their offense in the second period while setting Washington up to win the third. The first score was a power-play goal right in front of the net that tied things up and the second was a nifty individual move where he split defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Connor Clifton before dangling around Clifton and roofing a backhander for a beautiful goal. Oshie finished with two shots on net and four shot attempts overall in 20:31 of ice time to go along with a blocked shot. Still, it was all about the offense provided when the Capitals needed it as a bit of a one-man goal-scoring show on a night when Alex Ovechkin was pretty much held in check.

BLACK EYE: Jake DeBrusk at least had a positive play when he fed Patrice Bergeron for a first-period, power-play goal that would have given the Bruins a 2-0 lead. Instead, the goal was wiped off the board by an offsides challenge and DeBrusk was a negative player for the Black and Gold for the rest of the night. DeBrusk finished with no points, no shots on net and had three giveaways in 20:50 while finishing with a minus-1 rating. He certainly wasn’t alone with not bringing enough to the table for the B’s, but it was him fading into the background in a physical, gritty game against a quality opponent that conjured up memories of his issues in the playoffs last season.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins tied the score by grinding for a third-period goal from their fourth line, but then they gave up a go-ahead goal less than two minutes later. Then the B’s proceeded to get outshot 11-9 in the third period despite never leading at any point in the final 20 minutes and never really mounting enough pressure to potentially tie it to pus things to the extra session. It’s a massive letdown for the B’s to claw all the way back and then watch as it goes up in smoke in just a couple of minutes, but it was about Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson – two of Washington’s best players – stepping up and making the play when it needed to be made.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak snapped his longest goal-scoring drought of the season at four games as he scored the first goal for the Bruins on a sizzling wrist shot. It was a nice transition play from Charlie McAvoy bombing down the left side before moving cross-ice to Pastrnak at the bottom of the face-off circle. Pastrnak snapped it off the crossbar and into the back of the net for his NHL-leading 26th goal and got Boston off to a good start for the first time in a while. Pastrnak finished with the goal, seven shot attempts, a hit and three takeaways in 21:16 while playing a strong, solid, Pastrnak-like game.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 – the number of consecutive losses for the Bruins. They have lost four in a row one other time this season, but it’s the first time they’ve lost three regulation games in a row.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just told him I'm happy for him and congrats. He looks like he's got a six-pack now, so I'm just happy for him. It was great to see him. It's been a while." –Brad Marchand, on what he said to former teammate Tim Thomas when he was on the ice for the ceremonial puck drop as a new inductee for the US Hockey Hall of Fame.

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