3 Bruins Thoughts as the Calendar Turns to February

Jan 21, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) scores on Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart (79) during the third period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) scores on Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Carter Hart (79) during the third period at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /
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As the calendar turns from January to February, the Boston Bruins sit in third place through eight games of the 2021 season in the East Division. As the season ramps up, here are three thoughts from the month of January.

1. Bruins Goaltending duo still one of the best in the league.

Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have been the best goaltending combination in the NHL the last two years and that still holds true early in the season.

Coach Bruce Cassidy has basically rotated the pair and even hinted in training camp that he wanted Rask to play no more than two games a week during the season. Last season they combined to win the Jennings Trophy, which is awarded to the goaltender having played a minimum of 25 games for the team with the fewest goals scored against, after allowing just 174 goals in the shortened 70-game season.

This season, Rask is 3-1-1 with a 2.49 goals-against average (GAA) and a .890 save percentage (SV%). Halak is 2-0-1 with a 1.30 GAA and a .938 SV%. Both are in the final years of their contracts and Rask is playing early in the season as he did in 2019-20 when he finished second in the Vezina Trophy voting behind Winnipeg Jets netminder Connor Hellebuyck.

2. Special teams have played a big role early in the season.

Even without power play stud David Pastrnak, the Bruins had the fourth-ranked unit in the league at 36-percent (%) in the first seven games, scoring eight goals. Saturday night Pasta returned and the Bruins went 1-for-4 on the man advantage and looked sharp as a unit.

With Pastrnak back healthy, look for the power play to produce even more as the season goes along. Nick Ritchie has a team-high four power play goals, while Patrice Bergeron has three and Brad Marchand has two.

The penalty kill has been just as effective for Boston. The fourth-line of Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and Anders Bjork has done a tremendous job on the PK, while Kevan Miller, Brandon Carlo, and the rest of the defense has done a good job of keeping the front of the net clear of Halak and Rask.

Bergeron and Marchand each have tallied a shorthanded goal already this season.

3. The East Division is as good as advertised.

One of the toughest realigned divisions for the 2021 season, the East Division is living up to its hype. The Washington Capitals (6-0-3) have yet to lose in regulation, while the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins struggled in their two-game stop in Boston last week, but have taken care of business against the rest of the division. The Flyers are 6-1 against teams not named Boston, while the Pens are 5-2 against teams not named Boston.

The Buffalo Sabres have played typical Buffalo Sabres hockey early in the season and are above .500 at 4-3-2, but if history has anything to say, they will fall back as the season goes along. Taylor Hall has been a nice addition in Buffalo. The Devils gave the Bruins fits in the season-opening series in Newark, while the New York Islanders frustrated the Bruins on Long Island with a 1-0 shutout victory.

Boston has yet to play the New York Rangers, who are currently in the basement at 2-4-2, but they have one of the best offensive groupings in the division, but their defense and goaltending have left a lot to be desired early in the campaign.

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If the Bruins want to make the playoffs, finishing in the top four is a must as only four teams qualify for the East Division postseason. If the Black and Gold want to play beyond the regular season final on May 8, they have to continue their strong play.