After breezing through their first two games this week – a 6-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils and a 9-0 thrashing of the Calgary Flames this evening at the TD Garden, the Boston Bruins will host the Vancouver Canucks in a rematch of last season’s Stanley Cup Final. Both teams have dominated their respective conferences, making the rematch that much more special come Saturday at 1 p.m. This marks a good time to reflect how special this Boston Bruins team is growing into.
What the Bruins are doing right now is truly remarkable. Their level of domination since November is worthy of throwing them in the same class as the regular season domination of the 2007 New England Patriots, who scorched opponents for what became an NFL record number of points 589, and a perfect 16-0 regular season. The Bruins have outscored opponents 138-69, a plus 69 – not even close to the second place plus/minus club, the Detroit Red Wings, who are a plus 40. It’s not only the scratching of the surface that’s impressive when it comes to the Black and Gold. Consider that the last time Boston squared off against Philadelphia and Florida, the third and fourth place teams in the Eastern Conference, they demolished them by a combined 14-0 beating.
So what exactly is the Bruins’ strength? Everything. They lead the NHL in goals scored. They lead the NHL in fewest goals allowed. They have arguably the two best goalies in the league on the same team. Backup Tuukka Rask leads the NHL in goals against average (1.49) and save percentage (.949). Last season’s postseason hero Tim Thomas is right behind his teammate, with the third best goals against average (1.90) and second best save percentage (.940). It’s simply a deadly tandem. The Bruins are loaded with depth – the top three lines can all score with the best of them. The defense is top notch behind the leadership of captain Zdeno Chara. Throw in that the penalty kill is as good as it has been in recent years and that the power play has seen dramatic improvement from a year ago, it’s simply hard to find a weakness on this year’s hockey club.
The Bruins have 10 losses on the season – seven came in the first month when they appeared to be enduring some sort of Stanley Cup hangover. If the Bruins can manage to keep their foot on the accelerator, they could be in store to shatter the NHL record for wins in a regular season. The record is currently held by the 1995-1996 Detroit Red Wings, who won 62 games. Detroit was eventually ousted in the Western Conference Finals. It goes to show you the regular season can only have so much meaning. The NFL’s only 16-0 team, the 2007 Patriots fell short in the Super Bowl. The 2001 Seattle Mariners hold the record for wins in a regular season, 116, but they also failed to win their championship losing in the American League Championship Series to the New York Yankees.
What would it take for the Bruins to chase the Red Wings record? They would have to lose no more than nine games the rest of the way. Considering they’ve lost 10 in just under half of the current season, it’s certainly within reach, especially when you factor in the horrendous first month in October. The team has depth everywhere to withstand any injuries that come their way going forward, particularly in net with Rask and Thomas. While the ultimate goal is repeating as Stanley Cup champions, most wins in the regular season would be an astonishing accomplishment and something they should shoot for. It’d be yet another feel-good story for a group of guys this city has rallied around since last spring. If they can keep this level of play up, man it’d be tough to bet against them.
Statistical assistance courtesy of nhl.com
Photo courtesy of bruins.nhl.com