The Boston Bruins are surging toward the top of the NHL standings, and look like a top title contender as the Stanley Cup Playoffs beckon.
The Eastern Conference-leading Bruins will look for their 11th straight victory when they visit the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. It would mark the longest win streak in coach Claude Julien's seven seasons.
"Our whole team is feeling good about their game and when you feel good about your game, you seem to have that energy and right now our whole team has a lot of energy," Julien said after the Bruins beat the New Jersey Devils 4-2 on Tuesday.
Boston will play nine of its remaining 13 regular-season games away from TD Garden but no challenge appears too demanding of late. The Bruins lead the Eastern Conference with 47 wins, 99 points and a plus-74 goal differential. They've also moved to within two points of the League-leading St. Louis Blues in the race for the Presidents' Trophy.
The Bruins have done it with nine players with 30 or more points, four 20-goal scorers, a steady dose of 6-foot-9, 255-pound defenseman Zdeno Chara and great goaltending.
"Boston is a team built for the playoffs, and there's no secret to why they have success that time of the year," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said. "They are a big, tough team to play against, and an opponent has to be prepared to play that type of game."
The Bruins have outscored the opposition 41-15 during the winning streak and have allowed two or fewer goals in nine of the 10 games. The Bruins' penalty-killing unit has allowed one power-play goal in the past 24 times shorthanded, and that was during a 5-on-3 advantage.
"What has most impressed me about our team during the streak is how resilient we've been," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "Even though we've won 10 in a row it doesn't feel that way. We're not really judging ourselves by the amount of games we've won. It's more about our play and we know we've gotten lucky in a few games. We're doing the right things and focused on cleaning it up a little bit playing even better."
Julien has been pushing all the right buttons, particularly on offense. The decision by general manager Peter Chiarelli to sign Jarome Iginla to a one-year deal in July is proving to be one of the shrewdest transactions of the offseason. Iginla was inserted on the Bruins' top line at right wing after Nathan Horton signed a seven-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets one day earlier.
Iginla, center David Krejci and left wing Milan Lucic have turned into one of the best lines in hockey; they've produced 51 points in Boston's past 16 games. Iginla has 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in that span, Krejci has 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) and Lucic has 16 points (six goals, 10 assists).
SOG: 148 | +/-: 33
Devils forward Jaromir Jagr joined the Bruins before the trade deadline in 2013, appearing in 11 regular-season games and 22 playoff games.
"Of course [Krejci] has great talent, patience and skill," Jagr said. "He's more of a passer than a goal scorer. The player that makes a huge difference over there is [Lucic]. He's a very underrated player in my opinion; probably the most underrated player in the League."
Julien smirked when told of Jagr's comment about Lucic.
"He's very good at complimenting," Julien said. "Jagr knows the game but he's played with Lucic and also understands what he's all about. I don't think he really enjoys going to battle with [Lucic] either.
"Whether he's underrated or not, we don't feel that way in our book. He's a big, strong body, can shoot the puck and play physical. He puts you on your heels when he's forechecking."
Lucic, 25, leads the Bruins with 208 hits and 76 penalty minutes, but also is second in assists (31) and game-winning goals (five), and third in points (52). His career-high for points in a season came in 2010-11 when he had 62 on 30 goals and 32 assists. Lucic also led the team with 167 hits that season.
"Skill-wise everyone knows how tough it is to play against [Lucic]," Jagr said. "He can hit but he's also a very smart hockey player. The Bruins make smart plays, they play disciplined, patient and they find ways to win hockey games."
In addition to the top line, center Patrice Bergeron is a model of consistency and left wing Marchand leads the League with five shorthanded goals. Goalie Tuukka Rask and an influx of youthful enthusiasm in defensemen Torey Krug and Dougie Hamilton have aided the Bruins. The team has also gotten a lot out of backup goalie Chad Johnson, who is 15-3-1 after beating New Jersey.
"Depth is nice to have," forward Chris Kelly said. "If you have one line that's doing the majority of the scoring it's easy to put your best defensive pairing against them. But when it's four lines, and even if they're not necessarily scoring every night but playing in the zone, it wears teams down. When you're in the defensive zone you get tired pretty quick and I think that's what we've been able to do."