Bruins scorching start best since 1970-71

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Bruins scorching start best since 1970-71

BOSTON -- After Tuesday nights 2-1 shootout victory over the New Jersey Devils, the Bruins are off to the best start in franchise history since the 1970-71 edition of the Bruins began that season with a 5-0-1 record.

The Bruins have matched that six-game start and have claimed 11 out of a possible 12 points in this unique 48-game regular season, putting them atop both the Northeast Division and the Eastern Conference. It's exactly the kind of start to the season envisioned by some with the Bruins holding the most NHL players (12) that stayed active in Europe during the four month lockout, and returning nearly the entire roster and coaching staff from last year's battle-hardened crew.

Only the Chicago Blackhawks and the San Jose Sharks, both red-hot teams out in the Western Conference, have more points than the Bs do at the 10-day mark of the hockey season.

Anytime a recent edition of the Bruins does something to match a record or accomplishment from the Bobby Orr Era in Boston, its a pretty healthy indicator that theyre doing something special.

Thats the case this time around for a Black and Gold team hell bent on a strong start before the season was underway. They've accomplished their goals and put themselves right in the middle of the fray with a staggering 12.5 percent of the regular season already in the books.

Our guys have been really good. Weve found ways to win. To me weve played some pretty good hockey so far early in this regular season. In the games that werent quite as good as we should have been, we found a way to win, said Claude Julien. To be a good team youve got to be able to do that, not every night is going to be a great night.

"At the end of the day its how hard youre willing to work to get that win and our guys have been good at answering that call.

It's been a few things that have allowed the Bruins to get off to such an optimal start: Tuukka Rask has been dominant between the pipes with a .932 save percentage and 1.74 GAA, the Milan LucicDavid KrejciNathan Horton line has been among the best in the NHL over the season's first two weeks and shows no signs of slowing down and 19-year-old rookie Dougie Hamilton has given the Bruins an offensive-minded defenseman they've been searching for since Peter Chiarelli took over as general manager in Boston more than six years ago.

Add to that the continued excellence of players like Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand to name just a few, and Boston sports fans are looking at the franchise with the best possible chance to win another title soon.

"Two years ago when we did go all the way to the Cup, we were coming back no matter what the situation was," said Tyler Seguin, of the multiple third period comebacks the Bruins have already pulled off in this young season. "I think it just shows the character of this locker room. Obviously still being early in the season we want to really show our identity, and I think thats a big part of it."

Not only have the Bruins been up for answering the call to victory, but they've impressed with the flair they've flashed in their wins. True to form of the Bruins clubs that skated under the tutelage of Julien over the last couple of years, the Black and Gold have been at their best when the game is on the line in the third period.

A wise hockey coach once said that "the legs feed the wolf, gentlemen" and the Bruins are stuffing the wolf with TD Garden healthy wraps and jumbo meatballs after being fully prepared for a quick camp followed by an immediate NHL season.

With the game-tying goal for Nathan Horton in the third period of Tuesday nights eventual shootout win included, the Bruins have outscored their opponents by a 7-0 margin in the third period this season. That's a Stanley Cup worthy-type statistic from Boston early in the season.

The third period dominance is something the Bruins have carried as a calling card over the last few years, and it clearly wasn't lost during the 119 days of lockout inaction.

They have also been timely scores for the Bs: Hortons game-tying bid through the five-hole last night guaranteed the Bruins would get at least a point, and the David Krejci one-timer for Monday's game-winner in the final two minutes against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday night are just from the last two games alone.

In those last two games they've outshot their opponents by a 31-16 margin in the decisive final 20 minutes of regulation.

Those kinds of come-from-behind victories and late-game rallies start to bond people together with the belief they can overcome any kind of deficit. The Bruins are already there with that kind of swagger given theyre the same young, talented nucleus that won the Stanley Cup two years ago.

But every little bit helps in the confidence department when NHL hockey is concerned.

Weve got a lot of guys who were here when we won the Stanley Cup. When we did that, we went through every situation you could possibly think of, said Brad Marchand. We know that its not over until the buzzer goes, and weve shown that a couple of times already.

The Bruins are now in the middle of the great start they hoped for, and theyre showing the same kind of traits that have made them a championship-caliber team over the last three years.

Theyve seen most of their key players come out of the gate strong and theyre taking advantage of a schedule that doesnt truly get crazy until the middle of February. That was a major point of emphasis after the Bruins staggered out of the gate to a 3-7 start last year coming off their Summer of Stanley Cup fun.

The Bruins will now say they're on to bigger and better things, and its time to focus on the Northeast Division games coming up quickly on the 48-game regular season schedule.

But the team is also off to the best start in more than 40 years dating back to the franchise's glory days of Bobby Orr and multiple Cup titles, a sign the Black and Gold might just be on to something special again these days.

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t show anything on the ice in Monday afternoon’s 4-0 matinee loss, and that’s not really any kind of an overstatement.

The scoring chances were almost nonexistent despite 32 shots on net, the second period was dreadful as the Bruins gave up three goals over the course of a six minute span and there was zero added urgency in the third period once the B’s fell behind. The emotion was missing from the drop of the puck to open the game and it never showed up once the Islanders began taking control of the game.

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It was a bitterly disappointing result after the Black and Gold had played so well in their previous five games, and put in strong, winning efforts against the Panthers, Blues and Flyers.

On Monday afternoon, the passes were sloppy and errant all over the ice, there was zero physicality and the Bruins buckled once the Isles turned the intensity up just a little bit in the second period. The game was basically over once Nikolay Kulemin snapped one home wide open from the slot area with Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and David Krejci all blowing their defensive assignments, and then Tuukka Rask followed it up by allowing a softie to Josh Bailey from a bad angle close to net.  

So Bruins head coach Claude Julien termed it a “flat” performance once it was all over with, and openly wondered whether it was fatigue-related result linked to the compacted schedule Boston has played through this season. Monday marked the seventh straight day that the Bruins held some kind of formal skate, though most of the veteran B's players stayed off the ice during last week's Wednesday off-day practice in Nashville.   

“We were flat tonight, obviously, flat from the get-go. I think that first half of the game, we didn’t give much until they scored that first goal. We were able to stay in, but we certainly weren’t generating much ourselves, from that point of view,” said Claude Julien. “His is really the first year, for me as well, going through a condensed schedule, and I’m certainly not using that as an excuse, is it fatigue?. . . But we were flat tonight. How do you explain it? I don’t know. I know that it’s frustrating. I know that it’s disappointing. That’s all I can say.

“Whether it’s mental fatigue, whatever it is. We made some mistakes tonight like, from the goals you look at, we weren’t even in the position that we’re normally in. So we were totally out of whack, as far as even defending. When you give that first goal that much room in the middle of the ice, your D’s go on the wrong side, your weak-side forward is way on the other side, and you open up the slot area, that’s something I haven’t seen much of this year. I think it said a lot from our game tonight.”

The compacted schedule certainly could be a factor for a Bruins team that’s played more games than anybody else in the Eastern Conference to this point, but the B’s also had 48 hours to recharge after winning a Saturday matinee over the Flyers. So the fatigue excuse seems a little far-fetched for a hockey club that’s no-showed a few too many times this season, and did it again on Monday afternoon against one of the worst teams in the NHL.