The Boston Bruins ended a 39-year drought by winning the Stanley Cup last spring. The scary news for the rest of the NHL is that this season's team looks even better. After going 3-7-0 in October, the Bruins have torn up the NHL.
Thursday's 9-0 victory against Calgary was their 26th of the season --- 23 of which have come in Boston's last 27 games. Their 23-3-1 spurt is similar to New Jersey's 23-3-2 surge in the second half of last season. But while the Devils outscored their opponents 77-45 in their run, the Bruins have outscored their opponents 116-45 during their hot streak -- including 45-13 during a 9-1-0 spurt that includes Thursday's demolition of Calgary, Boston's biggest margin of victory in more than 24 years.
The Bruins haven't just been beating teams -- they've been destroying them. Thursday's game marked the 11th time in 37 games that Boston has scored six or more goals; the rest of the NHL has done it 47 times. Of the 16 games this season decided by six or more goals, the Bruins have won five; no other team has won more than two. Boston leads the NHL with seven shutouts; five have come in games the Bruins won by at least six goals.
Boston isn't all that great in close games -- the B's are 7-6 in one-goal contests and 4-4 when the margin is two goals. But they're a whopping 15-1 in games decided by three or more goals. The 15 blowout wins are tied with Detroit for the most in the NHL; the one loss is a League low.
Though they've played a League-low 37 games, the Bruins lead the NHL with 135 non-shootout goals, five more than Philadelphia, which has played one more game. Boston also leads the NHL by allowing just 68 goals, 10 fewer than the second-place New York Rangers. At plus-67 (not counting shootouts), they are just 10 short of Vancouver's League-leading margin of plus-78 last season, when the Canucks became the first team since the 1977-78 Montreal Canadiens to top the NHL in both categories.
Scoring by committee -- The Bruins' offensive totals are even more impressive because it's truly been a team effort.
Boston does not have a player ranked among the NHL's top-20 scorers. The Bruins' leading scorer is second-year forward Tyler Seguin, whose 36 points are good for a tie for 22nd place. But what the Bruins do have is balance -- they have four players with at least 30 points, and six have at least 11 goals. Eight players had multiple-point games Thursday, but no one had more than three points.
Boston is capable of scoring quickly. The Bruins scored two goals in a span of 47 seconds in Thursday's win against Calgary -- the 13th time this season they've connected twice in less than a minute.
More interesting is Boston's domination of the plus/minus ratings. Seguin leads the NHL at plus-31, teammate Brad Marchand is next at plus-26, and Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara are tied for third with Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto at plus-25. Of the top 16 players in plus/minus rating -- at plus-18 or better -- eight are Bruins.
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Finishing strong -- The Bruins also excel at what great teams do -- finish games. Boston is tied for the League lead in third-period goals with 56 (Ottawa also has 56, but has played four more games), and is the NHL's best defensive team in the third period, allowing just 22 goals. The Bruins have outscored opponents 31-13 in the third period at home and 25-7 on the road -- and have yet to be outscored in the final 20 minutes in their 16 games away from TD Garden this season. They've outscored teams 10 times and were even in the other six.
Nor are the Bruins padding their third-period numbers with empty-net goals. Boston has scored just three times all season after the opposition pulled its goaltender for an extra attacker.
Glad to be home -- Considering how hot the Bruins are, the Flames probably would have picked just about anyone else as their opponent for the finale of a seven-game road trip. Instead, the 9-0 rout capped a trip that saw Calgary win the first two games and lose the last five (one in overtime).
No one had a tougher time during the five losses than defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who was minus-5 against Boston -- his second minus-5 showing in three games. He had 1 assist and was minus-13 in the five losses.
Teammate Chris Butler had an especially tough time in Boston -- his minus-7 was the worst night by any player in nearly 18 years. Mikael Backlund also was minus-5 in Boston. The four minus-5 or worse games by the Flames this week are the only ones in the League this season.
Stuck on 116 -- Martin Brodeur ended the 2010-11 season with 116 regular-season shutouts, the most by anyone in NHL history. Three months later, he still has 116.
Brodeur was credited with his 116th shutout last March 25, when he blanked Pittsburgh through 65 minutes before the Penguins beat New Jersey 1-0 in a shootout. Since then, he's started 29 games without putting up a shutout -- in fact, he hasn't come within 10 minutes of one in any of those games. He enters Friday's game against Florida without a shutout in 2011-12, the longest he's ever gone into a season without putting up a zero.
After the first sub-.500 season of his career (23-26-5) in 2010-11, Brodeur comes into the weekend with an 11-10-1 mark this season. But he's on pace for what easily would be the poorest statistical season of his career. His goals-against average is an even 3.00 -- far worse than his career mark of 2.22 entering the season and well above his previous high of 2.45, set last season. Perhaps more important is that his save percentage is just .888 -- fourth-worst among all goaltenders who have played at least 15 games, and far worse than his career mark of .913.
Brodeur has had only three starts this season in which he's allowed just one goal, while he's allowed five or more in the same number of games, including Wednesday's 6-1 home loss to Boston.
The one area in which Brodeur has looked like his old self has been shootouts. He's won all three in which he's played and has stopped all six shots he's faced. In fact, the Devils are 8-1 in the tiebreaker; they actually are below .500 (13-16-1) in non-shootout games.