by PuckStopsHere on 12/27/11 at 04:55 AM ET
The Boston Bruins are currently third in the NHL with a league leading 23 wins and 10 losses. They have one regulation tie point. Both teams ahead of the Bruins in the standings have more games played and should Boston win those games they will have the league leading record. Most impressively, Boston leads the NHL with 3.52 goals per game and with 1.88 goals against per game. This gives them a league leading 56 goal differential.
This Bruin team has looked better this season than they did at any point last season and they won the Stanley Cup last season. Boston has dropped over 0.4 goals against per game since last season. They have increased their offensive output by over half a goal per game. This gives them almost an extra goal of advantage per game this season when compared to last.
In goal, Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask are having outstanding seasons. Both are posting better numbers than they did last season, which is particularly impressive for Thomas who had a league record saves percentage last year.
On defence Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg remain the top two defencemen and both are playing well. Chara is a serious Norris Trophy candidate. Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ference provide depth along with newcomer Joe Corvo.
Their forward unit has three players who are on pace to outscore any Bruin player from last season. Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand were rookies last season who have blossomed into bigger roles this year both offensively and defensively. Patrice Bergeron is the third player who is having a bigger offensive season than any Bruin did last year. His offensive numbers have increased significantly since his return from the 2007/08 season he lost to a concussion. He has developed into a top defensive player over that time period as well. The continued development of Milan Lucic and a full season from Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, who were both acquired via trade during last season, has helped the offence to improve. This depth of solid two-way forwards has allowed Boston to reduce the roles of Nathan Horton and David Krejci, who are not as strong defensively.
I think the bulk of Boston’s improvement has come from their forwards, particularly from Seguin and Marchand. I think I am looking at the team at a high point and it will be tough to maintain this level of dominance over the remainder of the season, though it is clear that Boston is a top team. While it is too early to predict that Boston could repeat as Stanley Cup champion, they are a serious contender.
I never imagined them as an elite team last season because aside from Zdeno Chara and Tim Thomas it is unlikely they have any other Hall of Fame calibre players. There may be others among the younger talents who have yet to have put together much of a career but have lots of potential. Seguin and Marchand are candidates as is Tuukka Rask. Patrice Bergeron is a long way from a Hall of Fame career, but he too has potential. This Boston team has potential to improve in the next couple of years as long as Thomas and Chara do not decline. If that happens, their best could be yet to come. They have been impressive so far this season (and despite a poor start to the season). They look even better this season than they did last year and last year they won the Stanley Cup.
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