Are the Boston Bruins the best team in the NHL right now?
Record-wise, they cannot make that argument just yet. Both the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks are currently ahead of the B’s with 52 points to Boston’s 51 and the Vancouver Canucks could move to 53 if they hold onto their lead against the Minnesota Wild tonight.
Still, those teams have played at least one if not four more games (click here for the NHL standings) than the Bruins – and they haven’t been dominating opponents like Boston has since they shook off their Stanley Cup hangover. The Big, Bad Bruins are battering teams so brazenly that they now have a +60 goal differential, which is by far the best mark in the league.*
Feel free to debate the merits of the league’s best teams in your personal power rankings, but the bottom line is that Boston is buzz-sawing their way through should-be contenders. The New Jersey Devils were the latest victims tonight, as Boston beat them 6-1 after New Jersey built a 1-0 lead.
That’s some slick work by Patrice Bergeron, among others. Ilya Kovalchuk called this game the “worst [the Devils] played all year,” but the Bruins have elicited that reaction from many teams this season and the list looks likely to grow as 2011-12 goes along.
* – The Detroit Red Wings are in second place at +40.
The Florida Panthers have had no problem giving Roberto Luongo the odd night off this season. That’s because Al Montoya has been one of the best backups in the league.
Montoya (8-2-1, .931) will get the call tonight in Detroit, with Luongo (23-13-5, .930) expected to start tomorrow in Buffalo.
The Panthers have the highest team save percentage in the NHL, at .926 (which includes empty-net goals).
“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Panthers d-man Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald recently. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”
Not good news for the St. Louis Blues — the club announced this morning that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been placed on injured reserve with a right-knee injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks.
Pietrangelo suffered the injury Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.
Based on the timeline provided, the Blues will be without their leader in average ice time (26:40) until at least the end of the month. St. Louis plays 10 times between now and Feb. 29, which also happens to be the trade deadline.
The big question, of course, is whether Pietrangelo will be ready to go upon re-evaluation.
The first day of the playoffs is April 13.
Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made
Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.
This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.
“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”
Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.
Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.
Vigneault felt the hit was late.
“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.
Beleskey was not suspended.
Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.
From the NHL:
Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.
Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.
Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.
Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse