By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — To be honest, it can be a little difficult to dive all the way back into a team after a soul-crushing, heartbreaking championship loss ended the previous season. When the games go from the highest stakes imaginable to a Saturday night in Phoenix or against the Devils, it is moderately challenging to really get the juices flowing.
Yet this year, the Boston Bruins have managed to overcome that hurdle. They’ve done it by being the best team in hockey.
That fact was accentuated most recently on Tuesday night, when the Bruins turned the San Jose Sharks into a befuddled and angered bunch, with the game getting so out of hand in the third period that the Sharks’ bench was left nearly empty.
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) October 30, 2019
Some facts about Tuesday’s dominant performance:
–The Bruins outshot the Sharks 41-17. Shots were 16-6 for Boston in the first period and 18-6 in the second period. Boston had more shots on the power play (19) than San Jose had overall.
–The Sharks entered with the best penalty kill in the NHL; Boston scored on its first power play opportunity of the night. It was scored by — honestly, who else — David Pastrnak. It was assisted — of course — by Patrice Bergeron.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 29, 2019
–Later in the first period, the Bruins made it 2-for-3 on the man advantage when David Krejci stepped into Pastrnak’s sweet spot for a one-time goal of his own.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) October 29, 2019
–As if the beatdown on the scoreboard wasn’t bad enough, the Bruins were clearly the tougher team in the third period, when things got out of hand. Evander Kane threw a cross-check into the face of Charlie McAvoy, prompting Zdeno Chara to go into full big brother mode. Fortunately for Brenden Dillon, a linesman stepped in to save the D-man for having to pay for Kane’s deed.
This linesman saw Chara drop the gloves and immediately went into life-saving mode pic.twitter.com/CcpMTmdM69
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 30, 2019
Yet because Kane wasn’t willing to undergo a repeat of last year’s pummeling at the hands of Chara, tensions remained high for the remainder of the third period. Brett Ritchie agitated Kane, who again did not care to fight (as is one’s prerogative). So Barclay Goodrow decided to step up to Ritchie. It didn’t go well for Goodrow.
–Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer got himself ejected. Tomas Hertl had this to say after the 5-1 final: “We kind of, I feel like we’re scared now. We’re just trying too much and we’re doing actually nothing. Everybody is scared to make a play, like we’re first time [in the NHL]. We’ve got a lot of veteran players and we have to be smarter.”
The Sharks entered Tuesday night’s game already in disarray. They lost four games in regulation to start the season before winning three. After that, they went 1-3-1 — with an ugly 5-2 loss to the Senators coming most recently — before Tuesday’s 5-1 defeat.
But they left the TD Garden as a broken team.
That is the power of the 2019-20 Boston Bruins, who are now 9-1-2. That lone regulation loss came in Colorado, on a night when two Bruins goals were wiped off the board due to the always-iffy enforcement of NHL rules. They lost once in a shootout to the Lightning, and they dropped an OT game in Toronto. But they’ve since won four straight games in regulation by a combined score of 19-7.
Overall, the Bruins have a plus-16 goal differential, which is best in the NHL. They’ve allowed just 25 goals in their 12 games played, second-fewest in the NHL, behind only Arizona, which has played one fewer game. They’re one of just three teams to have not lost a game in regulation on home ice (5-0-1), and they lead the entire NHL in regulation/overtime wins with nine, despite playing fewer games than a dozen teams.
Unsurprisingly, the individual statistics are equally as eye-popping.
Pastrnak is the NHL’s leader with 24 points. He’s also the NHL’s leader with 12 goals. Linemate Brad Marchand ranks third in the NHL in assists with 14, and his 21 points have him ranked fifth in the league. For those still in tune with plus-minus, Marchand is tied for third in that category at plus-11. Marchand and Pastrnak, along with Patrice Bergeron, have been huge drivers in the Bruins’ top-ranked power play, which has scored on 30.9 percent of its opportunities this year. Marchand and Pastrbak have taken turns the taking home the NHL’s First Star of the Week.
On the back end, Tuukka Rask leads the NHL by a wide margin in save percentage. His .951 mark is 10 points better than Thatcher Demko, who ranks second but has only played four games this year. Pekka Rinne, with eight starts, is the true holder of second place, with his .937 save percentage.
Overall, Rask has allowed 10 goals total in his seven starts this season. He is 6-0-1, and his 1.41 GAA is of course tops in the league. (Demko ranks second at 1.73, followed by Rinne at 1.74.) Rask is tied for the NHL lead with two shutouts, as well.
Making the run all the more impressive is that the Bruins have done it without beating up on bad competition. The Devils have been the only cupcake on the schedule, as the Bruins have beaten the Golden Knights (8-5-0), Anaheim Ducks (8-6-0), Arizona Coyotes (7-3-1), St. Louis Blues (6-3-3) and Toronto Maple Leafs (6-5-3). When playing bad teams like the Devils, Rangers and Sharks, the Bruins have left no doubt, winning those three games by a combined score of 15-5.
They also managed to go 4-0-1 without David Krejci, who returned Tuesday night after a two-week absence and promptly scored a goal (the game-winner, technically speaking) and an assist.
And through it all, they have:
–The second-most points in the NHL, despite playing two fewer games than the team above them.
–The best goal scorer in the league.
–The best goaltender in the league.
–The best power play in the league.
It’s a good start.
Now, of course, with the season just 15 percent complete, we get to the point of the story where we note that there’s a long way to go. Obviously.
And until or unless the Bruins finish the job next June, nothing will ever feel quite right about the current season.
But for the time being, it would be legitimately impossible for anyone to hold any level of disappointment or overwhelming concern about the Bruins. After an offseason of answering questions about whether or not they’ve “gotten over” Game 7, the Bruins have proven with their play that they collectively refuse to be negatively affected by the outcome of one calamitous evening last June.
Perhaps it’s fueling them this year. Perhaps it’s buried in the past. Whatever the case may be, as the calendar prepares to flip to November, the Boston Bruins are the best team in hockey. It’s hard to beat that.