The Boston Bruins are off to a 16-2-0 start, 11-0-0 at home – the only unblemished team at home remaining and ties an NHL record, have yet to lose after scoring the opening goal of the game (12-0-0), are the second (only?) team in NHL history to win 16 of their first 18 games (1929-30 Bruins) and are once again the darlings in Boston.
We know the story. Key injuries to start the season had many hockey pundits and fans wondering what would be of the Black and Gold. Many thought they would have to hover around .500 by American Thanksgiving to have a shot at the playoffs. Others thought that while other teams improved, they could hold onto fourth place in the Atlantic Division and earn a wild card berth into the playoffs.
Here we are almost a quarter of the way through the season and the Bruins lead the Atlantic and their lead over second-place Toronto is at 8 points with a game in hand.
And the Bruins have done this without having iced a fully healthy roster once through their first 18 games. And they are the envy of the other 31 clubs because it’s the first time in the cap world that the top team has had to actually move a body of significance to become cap compliant when they are healthy (at least that I can remember).
The Bruins are doing this in different ways and on each given night it’s someone else stepping up to be ‘The Guy’. But they are also getting performances far beyond what anyone could have imagined.
Linus Ullmark is in early season Vezina Trophy conversations. Hampus Lindholm is in early season Norris Trophy voting and if the Emery Edge Award (yes, I remember it) were still around, he would win that. David Pastrnak is among the league leaders in scoring, a revitalized and healthy Nick Foligno is making an impact, Pavel Zacha has been better than expected when he came over in a trade from New Jersey, Connor Clifton has been in beast mode. You can go up and down this lineup and find pleasant surprises throughout.
The Bruins have scored the league’s most goals (75). They’ve allowed the fewest (37). And by extension have the league’s best goals for/goals against differential.
The Bruins have a tough schedule coming up. I always preach patience to fans and tell them to let the games play out. And we are there again. There will come a point in the schedule they will stumble a bit. Maybe this is it, maybe it isn’t. Let’s not get too high or too low.
And they are doing this with Charlie McAvoy still not at the top of his game after returning from shoulder surgery. Yet, only 3 defencemen in Bruins history have recorded more assists in a game than the four McAvoy registered against Chicago.
Jeremy Swayman was not at the top of his game before going down with an injury. David Krejci has not been himself since missing 3 games with an upper body injury either. Most importantly, until Derek Forbort returns from a broken finger, they will have not yet had a healthy roster or lineup. With Ullmark playing the way he has been, Swayman has not had to be at the top of his game. But they will need him to be with this stretch coming up.
The Bruins next 18 games, which brings us to New Year’s Eve, is not going to be easy, especially the first 7 games on the schedule. What is missing on the schedule, or rather miniscule by NHL standards, is the number of 4-point games against divisional rivals where you can either expand on your lead or your opponents can close the gap. Only 6 of the next 18 games are against divisional opponents with zero against the Leafs, Wings and Canadiens. However, there are two against both Tampa Bay and Florida.
Will you be happy with a 12-6 record after how the first 18 games have gone?