BRIGHTON, MA – The Boston Bruins certainly have little to complain about at this point with a commanding 14-2-0 start to their season.
They are atop the league in points (28) and goal differential (plus-30) and stand as the only NHL team still averaging four goals per game at this point in the season. They have the NHL’s best penalty kill and rank top-10 in the PP while cashing in on 25.4 percent of their opportunities, and Linus Ullmark leads the NHL in wins while emerging as a No. 1 goalie candidate for the Black and Gold.
One of the best features of the Boston Bruins, though, has been that it’s seemingly somebody different every night whether it’s the unheralded Tomas Nosek stepping up at both ends of the ice, or Ullmark standing on his head between the pipes. The team-first focus on little details has produced a winning group of hockey players where everybody feels like they are a part of it while singularly focused on the one goal.
“I don’t think our structure is excellent or even where we need to be yet. But I think the collective attitude of them enjoying playing for each other has been incredible. You see it…Nosek one game, [Nick] Foligno the next game, [Trent] Frederic, [AJ] Greer, it’s somebody blocking a shot, or it’s a goalie making a magnificent save at the right time,” said Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery. “Just the way that the guys compete for each other has been my main takeaway [from the start to the season].”
🎥 Coach Montgomery on Jeremy Swayman and Derek Forbort: “They’re both doing well. Swayman is ahead of schedule. He’s starting to check boxes, we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. And then Forbs…he’s still a long ways away, he just started skating.” pic.twitter.com/oYcw3CKc9u
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) November 15, 2022
Things have been so good with the team off to it’s best start in over 90 years and still undefeated on home ice that at this point the Black and Gold are really, truly guarding most tightly against complacency and bad habits creeping into their game at this point.
“Number one is complacency, getting comfortable,” said Montgomery when asked what the team is looking out for amidst such an overwhelmingly positive start. “Two, learning how to get better while you’re having success. That’s really hard. We kind of get blind spots and we need to make sure that we don’t get blind spots and we’re being analytical and critical of our own game and seeing where we need to grow. And at the same time, [we’re] not trying to be perfect. It’s a balance.”
If there is one small detail to pick apart it might be the even-strength scoring, which has slowed down just a little as of late. The Bruins stand seventh in the NHL with 37 even strength goals scored this season, but only seven of their last 15 goals scored in their last five games were during 5-on-5 play. There were power play strikes, empty net goals and even a penalty shot mixed in there, but it’s interesting to note that the return of Charlie McAvoy hasn’t really perked up the offense during 5-on-5 play.
Montgomery says it stems from the play on the back end and the quality of breakouts coming out of their own zone.
“I don’t think we’re breaking the puck out well enough to get speed on the attack,” said Montgomery. “I don’t think our forecheck has been as tight as it needs to be. I think F1 is going in and doing a good job, but I don’t think F2 and F3 are getting there to get loose pucks and then the last thing is just our puck management. Our decisions after the blue line and then our decisions in the offensive zone once we have possession.”
On the contrary, Montgomery has a different idea for what things should look like now that they have a blueline group led by a healthy McAvoy and a player in Hampus Lindholm that’s operating at a Norris Trophy level (4 goals, 17 points in 16 games with a plus-18 and 24:21 of ice time) right now.
“It makes you more dominant. It does,” said Montgomery. “With or without the puck those guys can impact the game every shift, and when you have two defensemen that can do it night in and night out – and a more defensemen that can do it as well in their minutes – it just adds to a lot more offense and a lot more puck possession time.
“That’s why I think we might not score as much as we have, but we should be spending more time in the offensive zone than we have.”
The good news is that there’s a very long list of things that the Boston Bruins are doing right at this point while they begin nit-picking their game while living up to the big time expectations they’ve set for themselves at this point.