WILMINGTON — The Bruins have played the most home games in the NHL, and they’ve taken advantage of everything that goes with being in the Hub more than away. With a 12-3-2 record, the Bruins have the most home points.
But now it’s time for the schedule’s revenge. In December, starting with their game at Montreal on Thursday, the Bruins will play just five home games. They’ll be away for eight games in the last month of the calendar year, and that ledger of road games includes a visit to the hated Habs and then a four-game road trip to Toronto and the Western Canadian teams.
So far, the Bruins are just 6-4-0 on the road and they’ll need a better point percentage in order to maintain their perch atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
“I think [the challenge] does change because obviously you feel a lot more comfortable at home with your fans behind you,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said after most of his players went through an off-ice practice at Ristuccia Arena on Monday. “But it’s probably a welcome thing right now. I think it’s going to be good for us to get together on the road and spend a little bit more time as a team and face some of those challenges and the travel that comes with it. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to do this right now. We’ve had a very successful homestand and now it’s time to try and carry that over to the road.”
The Bruins have exceeded their modest preseason expectations for their standing at American Thanksgiving, which usually serves as an unofficial stopping point for determining if you’re a contender or not. Instead of just being in playoff position, they’re the lead dog in the race and are in position to make sure the road to the Eastern Conference title goes through Boston.
History has proven the Bruins to be extremely solid on the road under Julien. If you combine overtime/shootout losses into the loss column, the Bruins were 20-21 on the road under Julien’s first season of 2007-08. But they still picked up 48 points in 41 road games and they haven’t had a sub-.500 record since.
Since that first season, Boston is 112-66-20 on the road in Julien’s reign.
Bruins forward Milan Lucic thinks success during a road-heavy December will be judged on victories but also improvement, even if the standings might lead one to believe the Bruins are playing their best.
“I think we’ve been playing well. We’ve been playing the way we want to play,” Lucic said. “But I also think we still can get better. I know we still talk about being better and heading into December, after a good November, you want to kind of keeping things going. But also you want to go about doing things the right way and kind of get your game to ultimately where you want it to be. And obviously it’s still a long time until the postseason and all that type of stuff. But this is the time when you start building your game in the right direction. I always feel like December is one of those months. You kind of get like the first, I guess, quarter or now third of the season out of the way, and you can get in the groove of things. So I think for our team, that’s what we’re excited about heading into this month.”
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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