If you were living under a rock or simply not paying attention to the National Hockey League (NHL), the Boston Bruins are currently the best team, with an 8-1-0 record. Through the first nine games, the Bruins have been filling their opponent’s net with goals contributed by most of the lineup.
On the back end, Linus Ullmark (6-0) and Jeremy Swayman (2-1) are already serious contenders for the Willam M. Jennings trophy, with Ullmark in the Vezina Trophy discussion. As they head into November, the scariest thing about the Bruins is that Brad Marchand has played only one game, and Charlie McAvoy isn’t back from his offseason surgery. Imagine the possibilities when the lineup is full and healthy.
Last week the B’s hosted the Dallas Stars (3-1) and the Detroit Red Wings (5-1) before starting the season’s first extended road trip in Columbus against the Blue Jackets (4-0). When the week ended, the team was at the top of the league standings, partly thanks to David Pastrnak. Every time he steps on the ice and fires a one-timer into the net, he challenges Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for the top spot in league scoring.
So far, only the Ottawa Senators have secured a win against the black and gold, but they had to score seven goals to get it. However, the Bruins never gave up in that particular game and kept coming back. There is never an easy game in the NHL, but the B’s have been fortunate to play most of their early games at home. This upcoming week marks the first time in the season the team is on the road for an extended period against key matchups, which could bring the club back to reality. Either that, or the Bruins continue to dominate and separate themselves from other conference contenders.
Tuesday, Nov. 1 @ 8:00 PM vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (PPG Paints Arena)
The Bruins roll into Pittsburgh for a Tuesday night matchup against their rivals, the Penguins. The days of Mario Lemieux vs. Ray Bourque are long gone, but Sidney Crosby vs. Zdeno Chara eventually replaced them. Right now, both teams have older rosters with young guns already proving themselves. Whether Swayman stops pucks or Jack Guentzel scores 40 goals, this rivalry is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future.
The Penguins are returning from a west coast trip that resulted in losses in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Seattle, dropping their record to 4-4-1. Before they left the eastern timezone, the Pens averaged over five goals a game, yet managed just six goals in the last four games. They should be frustrated with their recent performances and would look to take them out on the league’s best team. Fans in the Steel City believe their boys have one more Stanley Cup run in the lineup, which features Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang.
To cement their dominance in the division and conference, the Bruins need to go into enemy territory and take two points away from a struggling team. Last year, the Penguins took two out of three games, outscoring the B’s 9-4. During the previous season, 2020-21, Boston took the season series 5-3, gaining a slight edge in goals 21-19. These two teams have a long history of playing their best hockey against one another, so it is no surprise to see the games decided by a handful of goals.
A couple of players to keep an eye on in this game is Pastrnak, who is on a mission to secure one of the game’s most significant contracts by chasing down his first scoring title. His lifetime numbers against the Penguins include 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points in 21 games. On the home side, Crosby is sitting at 899 assists and hopes to join the 900-assist club any day. He has 49 helpers in 53 games against the Bruins, with 66 points, his sixth-best total against any team.
Historically, the Bruins hold a comfortable lead in the all-time matchup with a 122-70-21-8 record.
Thursday, Nov. 3 @ 7:30 PM vs. New York Rangers (Madison Square Garden)
After their trip to western Pennsylvania, the B’s head to The World’s Most Famous Arena to meet the New York Rangers.
The Blueshirts employ the reigning best goalie, Igor Shesterkin, yet sit at 4-3-2 after nine games. Artemi Panarin (13 points) and Mika Zibanejad (11 points) are leading the team in scoring, giving other league leaders like Pastrnak and McDavid a run for their money every night. Shesterkin is still a star in goal, yet his numbers are not quite as spectacular as many would expect at a .914 % save percentage and 2.64 GAA. Surprisingly, all three of the team’s losses came with former Bruin Jaroslav Halak between the pipes.
Last year, the Rangers took two of the three games, winning 5-2 and 2-1 in a shootout. However, the Bruins walked away with a 3-1 win in their final meeting in April. Interestingly enough, the Bruins again took five of the eight meetings with their Metropolitan foes in the previous season. Historically, these two teams have met 663 times, with the Bruins ahead 302-252-97-12.
One player to watch in the Thursday night game is Massachusetts native and Boston College alumni, Chris Kreider. After destroying personal milestones in 2021-22 with career-best 52 goals, he’s off to a slow start with just three in nine games. His numbers against his hometown team are not great, with 11 points in 30 games and a minus-10 rating. He’s bound to break out at some point, and what better way to do it than against the team you grew up watching?
The other player to watch is Bruin’s ring-winger Pastrnak. Already leading the team in scoring this season, Pasta’s all-time best numbers come against the Philadelphia Flyers and the Rangers. He loves to score goals in the big moments, and there’s no grander stage than Broadway. In 28 games, he has 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points.
Saturday, Nov. 5 @ 7:00 PM vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Scotiabank Arena)
If there were any dates to circle on the upcoming Bruins schedule, it would be this Saturday night prime-time matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Everybody likes to play in the marquee game on Hockey Night in Canada, which is precisely what is on tap this weekend.
Last year, Toronto owned the Bruins, winning all three games and outscoring the B’s 16-8. The losses hurt in the standings since Boston chased their northern rivals for most of the season, finishing as a wild card team instead.
Success in the regular season is good, but most fans know the Leafs’ struggles against the black and gold in the playoffs, which include a legendary collapse in 2013. The two teams did not meet in 2020-21; however, the B’s had the upper hand in 2019-20, earning two wins in three matchups. Historically, the Bruins enjoy playing at Scotiabank Arena, where they currently have a 28-19-2-8 record in 57 visits. Despite a losing record at the old Maple Leafs Garden, the black and gold own a 301-268-98-13 record against their original six rivals.
The Leafs are struggling with a 4-4-1 record, sitting in seventh place in the Atlantic Division. There isn’t just one player to keep an eye out for; it’s the entire team. Reigning league MVP Auston Matthews has only two goals, while Mitch Marner has just eight points. Eventually, they will find their games and go back to terrorizing goalies as they used to. Moreover, Marner enjoys playing against the Bruins with 26 points in 16 games.
For the visiting team, the player to watch will be Ullmark, who is 1-4-1 lifetime against the Leafs. His numbers are pretty scary, 3.77 GAA and .881% SV, yet he is off to the best career start. He comes into the game as one of the best right now, while the Leafs appear to be a shell of themselves. This game is the perfect opportunity for him to slay the ghosts of his past and prove to everyone he is indeed capable of being a Vezina Trophy candidate.
Check back every Monday for another Hub of Hockey Weekly post, where we preview more upcoming Bruins games. Also, don’t forget to follow Causeway Crowd on Twitter for game-day trivia and player-of-the-game polls!