Boston Bruins Are A Top Five Team In The NHL


Boston Bruins Are A Top Five Team In The NHL Right Now

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins have officially moved into the top five of the NHL standings. After a hard-fought victory against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday, the Bruins earned their 42nd point on the season. The Bruins 42 points place them just behind the Montreal Canadiens and St Louis Blues who have both played two games more than Boston, and have 43 and 44 points respectively. Due to games played, as well as tie-breakers, the Bruins are in fifth place, but they are in fact tied with the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings, and Chicago Blackhawks who all have 42 points as well. What’s important to note is the fact that two of those four teams are in the Western Conference, and don’t particularly matter in the regular season for Boston as far as the playoff hunt is concerned.

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The Boston Bruins may not actually be a top five team in the entire National Hockey League, but they are certainly playing like one as of late. There are a few areas of the Bruins game that stand out as elite, including their offense, goaltending, power play, and even their penalty kill as of late.

The Bruins offense is one of the best offenses in the NHL. With 102 goals scored on the season, the Bruins sit tied with the Montreal Canadiens for second most goals in the league, and they also sit in second in goals-for-per-game, with an average goal-per-game mark of 3.26 — only the Dallas Stars are better with a 3.42 goals-per-game average. The Bruins have been consistently scoring timely goals all season, and it’s been the only consistent aspect of their game since the start of the season.

One of the major contributors for the Bruins being among the top teams in the league for goals-scored is their uncharacteristically hot power play. The Boston Bruins have scored a total of 26 power play goals on the season, good for first in the league. They’re 29.2% efficiency on the power play is also tops in the league, ahead of the Washington Capitals who convert on a still-impressive 25% of their power plays. The Bruins power play has been an area where the team has struggled for the better part of the Claude Julien-era, including the 2011 playoffs when they went on to win the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately for the Bruins, teams can certainly survive — and win the Stanley Cup, apparently — without a great power play, but a penalty kill and solid goaltending are what really separate the contenders from the pretenders.

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  • Where the Boston Bruins have struggled in recent years with the man-advantage, they have excelled while down a man due to penalties. The Bruins have consistently been one of the better penalty-killing teams in the NHL for years, but things apparently changed during the 2015-16 season. The Bruins bottomed out on the penalty-kill early on in the season, and they consistently allowed five-goals or more per game, which clearly is a recipe for disaster in any professional sports league. The Bruins are now ranked 16th on the penalty kill in the NHL, killing off over 80% of their penalties taken, including their last 19 straight. The Bruins penalty kill has done a very good job since suffering an ugly loss to the San Jose Sharks on November 17th, a game in which they allowed two power play goals, one of which ended up being the game-winner. The Bruins have only allowed three power play goals in their next 15 contests, killing off 54-of-57 penalties in that time span, meaning they have killed off 94.7% penalties in the last 15 games.

    While the penalty-killers have been stellar over the last 15 contests, the Bruins would be nothing without their franchise goaltender in Tuukka Rask, and their backup goaltender in Jonas Gustavsson. Tuukka Rask started the season allowing a string of five-or-more goals in many of his starts, but that forgettable-trend has ended, and Tuukka Rask is once again as elite a goaltender as there is across the entire NHL. Rask has allowed only eight goals over his last seven starts, equating to a 1.14 Goals Against Average. Tuukka Rask also sits tied for second in shutouts in the NHL this season with 4 to his credit. Rask’s season has turned around drastically since the start of the year, and his Goals Against Average for the season is 2.42 while his save percentage is up to .918. He currently has a 13-7-4 record on the year, and he will look to improve that as the season continues.

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    Jonas Gustavsson has also been impressive for the Bruins, keeping them involved in almost every single game he’s been a part of this season. Gustavsson currently holds a 6-2 record with a 2.42 Goals Against Average on the season in his 10 starts, matching Rask’s Goals Against Average. Gustavsson also has a .912 Save Percentage on the year, showing he is the real deal in net for Boston. The Bruins have turned to the veteran netminder with regularity in an attempt to keep Tuukka Rask well rested, and the results have been great.

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    The Boston Bruins have quickly become one of the biggest success stories in the NHL this year, and they will look to keep up that trend on December 22nd when they take on the St Louis Blues at home.

    Follow Brandon Share-Cohen on Twitter @BShareCohen to discuss all things Bruins and sports