The Boston Bruins have reaffirmed a commanding lead in the Atlantic Division with a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild last night. The win was the Bruins 9th straight, and 28th on home ice, which is the most in the National Hockey League this season.
The Bruins haven’t solely been winning hockey games, they’ve been doing so with authority. Over the last nine games Boston has only allowed thirteen goals against.
Bruins: won 9 straight games (allowed 13 goals in those 9 games). Tuukka vs Western Conf at home: 7-1-2 with a 1.17 GAA
— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) March 18, 2014
But the Bruins winning ways began before the recent nine game winning streak: since the beginning of February the club is 12-1-2, losing in regulation once, to the Washington Capitals to kick-off the month of March.
The Bruins have 97 points in the standings – 5 more than the Pittsburgh Penguins for top spot in the Eastern Conference. If the B’s can hold on to their lead they’ll finish atop the East and earn a first-round matchup with the second ranking wild card team.
Very often, the team that loses in the Stanley Cup finals regresses the following year, but that is not always the case and the Bruins are proving they will not fall into such category. Boston lost the Stanley Cup finals to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. It was a series that began very evenly played and even saw the Bruins lead 2-1 in games after three. As the series went on the tide shifted in Chicago’s favour and the Hawks won three straight to claim the Cup. The Bruins mission this season is simple: return to the Stanley Cup finals and win this time.
One key to the Bruins success this season has been the acquisition of power forward Jarome Iginla; brought in to replace Nathan Horton on a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. The Iginla Experiment has worked very well for Boston: Iggy has 25 goals this year – well on his way to cracking 30 for the 12th straight season (not including lockout).
Unlike surprise teams like the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bruins regular season success means very little. The B’s have been around the block with this current core – the first 82 games are merely warm up and preparation for the tournament that follows. The hope is that they haven’t peaked too soon:
A smiling Milan Lucic on the Bruins 8-game winning streak: "You just hope that you're not peaking too soon at this point." #BruinsTalk
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) March 15, 2014
To which Claude Julien said:
Lucic said he hopes the Bruins aren't peaking too early. Julien: "I can show him a lot of areas we can get better."
— Mike Cole (@MikeColeNESN) March 15, 2014
The standards are high in Boston, as are the expectations. And the East is an open road to the Stanley Cup finals if the Bruins can play to the high-level they’ve displayed at times over the last four years. All that’s left to do is go out and win the games; the hard part.