BOSTON -- Heres the thought going through the minds of 29 other NHL general managers after watching yet another Bruins blowout victory at the expense of the sad sack Calgary Flames: Were gonna need a bigger boat.
Thats the infamous line from Jaws when they finally get a sobering lookat the gigantic great white shark theyre hunting, and its the slow-settling realization among the hockey cognoscentithat the Bruins are the biggest predator in the NHL this season. Not in terms of throwing dirty hits or preying on the leagues weak sisters, but simply in being the biggest fish at the top of the hockey food chain this season.The Bruins are everybody else's big white whale in the NHL this year, and it's really not even close for second place half-way through the year.
Thirty-seven games into the season the Bruins are the class of the league coming off a Stanley Cup-winning campaign, and they just seem to keep improving on a formula that provedultimately successful last year. There is little doubt the reigning Cup champs are better than they were last year: theyre younger, theyre faster, they have the confidence of a team that knows theyre good enough when push comes to shove and they are much, much better offensively.
Its crazy. Weve built our team a certain way: its not that were going to dangle guys and make all kinds of solo goals, said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who wrapped up his fifth straight win and third shutout this season after the B's 9-0 win over the Flames. Its something we recognize and weve worked on for a couple of years. We dont even want to try anything fancy. We just want to work in our style of hockey because its worked out pretty well.
With that offensive improvement and overwhelming depth comes confidence fromthe Bruins that they can beat anybody at any time in any place. The Bruins havegone about doing it while sitting only a point behind the New York Rangers for the NHLs highest point total with an all-important game in hand. They're first in offense, first in defense, first in every goaltending category and literally have no weakness to be exploited by opponents -- but it's the offense that's really helped push this team toa new level.
I think its confidence honestly," said Rask. "I think the depth weve been talking about all year has been helping us a lot, but four lines feeling confident and feeling good about themselves obviously helps a lot. Every line wants to contribute and go out there and find ways to score.
Nobody envisioned the Bruins leading the NHL in goals per game as an offensive juggernaut, and there havent been Bs teams in recent memory capable of outscoring their opponents by a 45-11 margin while winning eight of their last nine games. That means the Bruins are averaging more than four goals for every one goal their opponents scrape together, and the Bruins have potted 15 unanswered goals after dropping nine goals on Calgary in the 9-0 spanking.
The offensive surge has taken some of the Bruins by surprise, particularly those players that werent part of the Cup run last season.
Its pretty fun to watch and fun to be a part of. I didnt expect that at all, scoring like weve been scoring all year, said Benoit Pouliot. Our plus differential is pretty high and its good but our goalies are the main thing keeping us in the game. We backed them up, kept the momentum on our side and scored some goals.
Yeah, thats right. Pouliot just said its all about the goaltenders in a 9-0 drubbing of a dead hockey team skating in Calgary at the end of a long seven game road trip.
It got so bad that Bruins fans started chanting We Want 10! in the third period hoping there was a chance for the Bruins to reach double-digits for a single goal total. The Flames might have been steaming as they heard the chant raining down on them, but they were powerless to make the B's pay any price for it.
Im a goalie, so if I was playing for Calgary Id be mad, said Rask. Theyre fans. Theyre known to chant different things and not really feel for the other team. Its important that theyre having fun. As long as theyre not chirping at me, its all right.
Clearly those around the Bs franchise have already become accustomed to their teams offensive prowess, but they simplyhad to "settle" for nine goals scored for the first time since a 1998 season. How long ago was that? Jason Allison and Peter Ferraro led the Bruins with two-goal performances much like Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron each potted a pair of goals in the blowout win 14 years later.
Thats where the similarities end, though, for teams of B's past anda Black and Gold powerhouse thats making everybody rethink just how high Bostons ceiling could possibly reach. This season reminds older Bruins fans of the 1970-71 season when the Orr-led B's had one of the all-time romps through the regular season, but couldn't cap it off with a Cup in the postseason.This team is having that kind of regular season again this year, and has made a decisive step forward in their development into a potential hockey dynasty capable of yearly runs.
We hope were a better team than last year because we know how hard it is to even think about getting another shot at the Cup. You always hope to improve as a hockey club, said Claude Julien. We matured and got better through experience, but we also got some young players that are better this year.
We brought some players in that are fitting in well, and I think our goaltending duo is stronger as we speak than it was last year at this time. Are we a better team? For the moment we are. But are we going to be a better team at the end of the year? Thats up to us to make it happen.
The numbers are startling for the better edition of the Bruins:
The Bruins have scored six plus goals 11 times in their 37 games this season and continue to put up big offensive numbers against overmatched opponents.
The Bruins are far and away the best offensive team in the NHL this season while averaging 3.65 goals per game, but theyre doing it without an offensive player in the top 20 in NHL scoring. Tyler Seguin sits at No. 23 on the NHL scoring list with 36 points while leading the NHL with a plus-31 this season. That screams out balance and depth up and down the lineup.
The Bruins continue to build on their third period prowess with a plus-34 goals forgoals against differential in the final 20 minutes of games.
A dozen players cracked the scoresheet in the win with goals from each of the four forward lines, and goals from each individual member of the David Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton line.
The Bruins already have six players up and down the lineup in double-digit goals scored totals for the season, and David Krejci is about to make it seven different players with his next tally this year.
The Bruins lead the NHL in goal differential with a plus-69 and hold a tidy lead over the second-place Detroit Red Wings with a plus-40 on the season. Thats the kind of five-on-five domination thats characterized the Bruins way of doing things over the last several years under Claude Julien.
It all adds up to the most offensively dominant Bruins team of the last 20-plus years that continues to reach up toward the historic Orr era in Bs history as some of the best in Boston franchise history. Yes, they are that good this year.