When you hit a mark that hasn’t been reached since Bobby Orr was on your team, chances are high that it’s a pretty special thing. (Unless it involves a once in a generation player being forced to retire too soon … let’s just move on.)
The 2010-11 Boston Bruins have already drawn some reasonable comparisons to those Stanley Cup winning “Big, Bad Bruins,” but tonight’s win wraps up a perfect six game road swing that matches the best road trip the franchise has produced since a championship 1971-72 season. (Click here for the specifics about their latest win, which was highlighted by Tuukka Rask’s 33-save shutout.)
It would be wrong to say that the Bruins are “back” since they’ve been somewhere between competitive and a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference for a few seasons now, but this year’s club might be the best of the Claude Julien era. The stunning part is that they’re blossoming without Marc Savard and they’re not leaning too much on Tim Thomas, either, as Rask earned four of those six victories.
While the Bruins’ success is mostly dictated by Julien’s defensive system, Zdeno Chara‘s elite shutdown abilities and a nice one-two punch in net, the club is also versatile. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci give the team quality pivots while they’ve turned a previous weakness at the wings to a relative strength, as Michael Ryder’s play has improved and Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic bring size and skill to the table.
It’s reasonable to think that the Bruins have joined the Philadelphia Flyers as the conference’s true elite ranks after making some nice trade deadline tweaks. The Flyers are the only East team with more goals scored so far this season (203 to Boston’s 195) while the Bruins’ 148 goals allowed is the lowest total in the NHL. Their +47 goal differential – one of the best indicators of a truly dominant team – is second only to the Vancouver Canucks’ ridiculous +58.
So long story short, the Bruins are looking really good. Really, really good. A lot can change as this season has been chock full of twists and turns, but right now, Boston looks like a legitimate Cup contender.
In fact, this might be their best chance since the days of Orr.