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Bruins march on in dominant fashion

Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 11:17 AM / NHL Insider

By Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent

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Bruins march on in dominant fashion
They've scored the most goals and allowed the fewest. They're 21-2-1 since the start of November. It's safe to say Boston is past its Stanley Cup hangover and back to being the NHL's best team.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Boston Bruins lead the NHL in goals scored. They also lead the League in fewest goals allowed.

They own the longest winning streak in the League -- 10 straight back in November -- and if they follow Wednesday's 2-1 overtime win over the Coyotes with another on New Year's Eve in Dallas, they will also have the League's second-longest winning streak at eight games.

"We're playing with a lot of desperation, a lot of jump," Boston captain Zdeno Chara said. "We're capitalizing on chances we're creating and we're just taking what's given to us."

And they are also not giving much. Goalies Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask -- a backup who has allowed all of one goal in his last three starts, a Herculean effort by Phoenix's Ray Whitney on Wednesday -- are making a mockery of the Jennings Trophy race while the Boston offense has produced 121 goals in 34 games.

Even on a night when the Bruins -- coming off a five-day holiday hiatus and an 8-0 whitewash of Florida before opening their Christmas presents -- didn't have their best fastball, they had more than enough finesse to keep rolling. David Krejci scored 47 seconds into the game, Dennis Seidenberg ping-ponged a puck off a Coyote defense 58 seconds into overtime and Rask did the rest.

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"It's a humbling game," Boston coach Claude Julien said as a warning, although his sparkling Stanley Cup ring from last season and his team's 21-2-1 record in its last 24 games might suggest otherwise. "We'll be tested along the way, so there's no reason for us to get too high."

The Bruins were tested in October when a Stanley Cup hangover produced a 3-7-0 start, and after losing back-to-back games to the hated Montreal Canadiens to end the month, whispers that the loss of veteran Mark Recchi and the lack of hunger for success might make for a long season started to rise.
 
Since then, the Bruins lost an overtime game to Detroit (Nov. 25) and back-to-back games to Winnipeg and Florida (Dec. 6-8). That's it. The other 21 are all W's for the B's. The 43 points in 24 games were enough to vault them atop the Eastern Conference and re-establish them as the team to beat.
 
The Bruins lost experience with Recchi's retirement, but gained speed and excitement with young players like Tyler Seguin and Benoit Pouliot taking larger roles. But the constants are the keys.

"We believe in our system," said Rask, who shut out the Flyers and the Panthers while watching his teammates score 14 times in his last two starts before pulling one out against the Coyotes. "What we do isn't really anything that other teams don't try to do. Over the years, we've just worked really hard at perfecting it and guys are very disciplined."
 
How disciplined? The Bruins have shut out opponents six times in the first 34 games -- by runaway train scores like 6-0 (Philadelphia), 7-0 (Toronto) and 8-0 (Florida) -- and have allowed two goals or less 23 times. They have allowed 64 goals in 34 games (1.88 per game).

Since the NHL went to an 80-plus game schedule for the 1974-75 season, the 2003-04 New Jersey Devils hold the mark for fewest goals allowed in a season with 164. Nearly halfway through the season, in an era where clutching and grabbing have largely disappeared and the red line is merely a decoration, Boston is on pace to cut 10 goals off that record.
 
But it's not just about keeping the puck out of the net. The Bruins have scored 121 goals with only one player (Brad Marchand) scoring more than a dozen. Eleven players have at least six.

"We have great depth throughout the whole lineup and that helps a lot,” center Patrice Bergeron said. “You can't say enough about the importance of that, because if one or two lines are off you still have others you can rely on. You look at the teams who have won the Cup, that's a common denominator."

But even that doesn't explain 21-2-1. What does?

"We're winning because we're handling it a lot better than in the past where we probably would have sat on our wins and thought we were better than we were," Julien said. "Guys know what it takes to win now and they're pretty modest with their accomplishments.

“But there is lots of room for us to improve and keep getting better. Right now, we're a fairly healthy team, but we'll have our challenges along the way, no doubt.”

Unless of course, they keep losing only one or two games a month.
Quote of the Day

We think that Randy is a very good coach. Our players think that Randy is a very good coach. We think that he's going to get the most out of this group. With the addition of the two assistants, a bit of a different dynamic, we're very comfortable that this is a quality coaching staff that's going to maximize the potential of this team.

— Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis on head coach Randy Carlyle and his staff