Win Streak Catapults Bruins to Top Spot in Eastern Conference

It seems like every season when spring rolls around, the Boston Bruins find a way to elevate their play and dominate the rest of the league. Whenever the year winds to a close, the Bruins become one of the most respected teams in the league due to their recent postseason success. This year, however, they are not waiting until the playoffs to show off their capabilities. The Bruins have gone 12-0-1 since March 1. During their 12-game win streak, they defeated tough opponents that have included the Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche. During that stretch, they have allowed just 1.40 goals per game and scored 3.91 goals per game. While they were always among the top teams in the Eastern Conference with Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay, this recent tear has put them above and beyond everyone else in almost every way. Their 49 wins now lead the league and their goal differential of +77 is the best in the conference by more than thirty. In total, their 104 points are five more than second-ranked Pittsburgh’s and are 17 points greater than Tampa Bay in the Atlantic Division. Though St. Louis is dominating things out West in their own right, right now the B’s are undeniably the best team in hockey.

They say that being a hockey goalie is the most difficult job in all of sports, but right now Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is making it look easy. Since the Olympics in which he led Finland to a bronze medal, Rask has allowed just 1.87 goals per game and has been the driving factor behind Boston’s success. On the season as a whole, he has the fourth-best goals against average at 2.07, the second-best save percentage at 92.9 percent and the most shutouts with six. It’s safe to say that Boston found a capable replacement for Tim Thomas when he left the club two years ago. Rask is not the only Bruin playing a key role in the team’s success.

David Krejci and Jarome Iginla are pacing the offense with 44 assists and 28 goals respectively, and the duo of Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk leads a defense that is one of the league’s best. As famous hockey personality Barry Melrose appropriately put it: “There are no weaknesses on this team. It’s just unbelievable how they’re dominating. They give you nothing, they come from behind, they get the leads and you’re done.” That’s exactly what the Bruins have always done while at their best. They grind out shifts in the corners, maintain puck possession in the offensive zone for minutes on end and score quickly and opportunistically.

Heading into the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs, they clearly look like the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. The question is, can anyone challenge them?  The Pittsburgh Penguins are not playing on the same level as Boston right now, but they certainly have the talent to put up a good fight in the playoffs. Hockey’s best player, Sidney Crosby, is on track to play his first 82-game season of his career and leads the league with 94 points and 60 assists. Winger Chris Kunitz has racked up a career-high 32 goals and even after missing 11 games, center Evgeni Malkin has 72 points on the year. With those three players, in addition to James Neal and Jussi Jokinen, the Pens have one of hockey’s best offenses. They have also maintained their title as the league’s top power-play unit even though they have been without the services of perennial Norris Trophy candidate Kris Letang.

What separates the Bruins from the Penguins, though, is that the Bruins are simply built for playoff success. Instead of relying on four or five stars to score all the goals and carry the team, Boston has a squad filled with competent skaters who can contribute both defensively and offensively. They are so deep that they have nine players on their roster with more than 30 points on the season, which is second-best in the NHL only to the Blues’ 10.

With that solid of a roster playing in front of a goalie like Rask, there is no stopping the Bruins. I believe they will beat out Pittsburgh to win the conference and represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Contact Ben Glassman at [email protected].