The Bruins are cruising to the Atlantic Division title and battling the Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. But neither the Bruins nor coach Claude Julien appear very excited about their success.
That even-keeled approach has been a Bruins trademark since Julien took over for the 2007-08 season. It's a major reason they won the Stanley Cup in 2011 and have been among the NHL elite during the past five seasons. The Bruins' core players have been through plenty of highs and lows, and they know they're still a month away from having to be in playoff mode.
"I think we are a ways away from that," forward Shawn Thornton said Tuesday. "We have enough experience here to know better than that. It's kind of cliché, but we kind of take it game-by-game. We forget about the last game and then look at this one, and then once this one's done we look at the next one, and so on. I think that's why we've been fairly consistent for a little bit."
To outsiders, the Bruins seem to be playing their game to perfection; inside the dressing room, the players and coaches might not feel the same. There is a mutual understanding of when their system is truly working as well as it can. But those times are rare; instead, they're constantly urging each other to be better.
"We're fairly self-aware of it probably because our core group has been here for a long time," Thornton said. "We have a pretty good gauge on how good we can be, and if we're not there then we remind ourselves. Of course, the coaching staff reminds us too. But that's why we have a pretty good balance the last little bit."
Being able to maintain their system win or lose is a main reason the Bruins have been able to stay among the NHL's best.
"It's something that is really important, especially in an 82-game season, that you want to be able to build up some consistency and play well," center Patrice Bergeron said. "If you get too high or too low, you have that, and obviously it's a roller-coaster year, so I think consistency and making sure you stay the same while you're losing or winning, and you keep the same mentality all year."
To Julien, focusing on the little picture of day-to-day efforts to improve and win, are key to alleviating pressure on his players.
"It's because we got used to that day-to-day approach, and for us it's served us well," Julien said. "Instead of putting pressure on yourselves to keep a winning streak going or to snap a losing streak or whatever may happen, we just go day by day. I want the guys to enjoy coming to the rink and coming to have some fun. So we don't paint any of those kinds of pictures, we just paint the daily picture: This is what we're going to do tomorrow, and we go on and on that way. It's served our team well."