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Haggs: Boston Bruins ‘Rolling” As Historic Start Kicks Into Gear

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BOSTON – Nobody could have imagined the Boston Bruins starting off so well and playing such dominant hockey right out of the starting gates this season.

Certainly, even the most cockeyed Bruins optimist couldn’t have imagined 15 wins in their first 17 games and a perfect 10-0-0 record on TD Garden ice with the Thanksgiving holiday just a week away. At this point the Bruins have already secured a playoff start with their titanic start to the season and proven those B’s decision-makers right that pulled the trigger on a coaching change this offseason.

But more on that later. At this point the Boston Bruins are just trying to prolong the winning ways as they did with a solid 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night where it took a patient, grinding effort until the dam finally broke for three goals in the game’s final period.

The first period was actually scoreless and mostly uneventful against a Flyers team that had weathered an angry John Tortorella after another loss a couple of days ago.

“It was more of a product of us, not having played in three days, which is the longest we’ve gone this year since we have started,” said Jim Montgomery of a Boston Bruins effort where there was more running around in both zones than usual. “I think our guys were too excited to play. Our puck movement was really good, but we were skating out of position.

“Offensively, and especially defensively, we were skating out in the middle of the ice a lot, which is uncommon for us…Philadelphia, they took advantage of it, credit to them. They had some really good looks and Linus [Ullmark] had to be really good until we executed great on the D-zone face off that got us that [Tomas] Nosek goal.”

David Krejci scored a pair of goals, Nick Foligno collected his 300th career NHL assist and once again Linus Ullmark was excellent between the pipes when he needed to be with one goal of offensive support to work with through the first 40 minutes of the game. This one-on-one battle won by Pavel Zacha leading to a Krejci snipe is exactly the kind of second effort, teamwork execution that the Bruins have shown on the ice all year. That, friends, is winning hockey.

Most importantly, though, the Boston Bruins have steady veteran leaders inside the dressing room that aren’t going to allow being the NHL’s best team in November to cloud their long-range plan. Because players like Krejci, Foligno, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have been there before and done it plenty of times.

“I wouldn’t get carried away. Obviously, we have a great start, but it’s a long season. It’s a really long season and we’re going to hit some rough patches. “That’s just the way it is,” said Krejci, who is on pace for a very Krejci-like 20 goals and 53 points this season with four goals and 11 points in 17 games to start the year. “But for right now we’re rolling, so we’re trying to get as many wins as we can. We’re not really focusing too much ahead.”

It’s gotten to the point where Boston’s historic start is one of the NHL’s best all-time through the first few months of a hockey season, and it’s got some of their players harkening back to their best winning stretches of the past. Nick Foligno was part of a 16-game heater with the Columbus Blue Jackets but said that differed from this stretch where it was a younger team that started getting carried away with bad habits creeping into their overall game.

Instead, this Boston Bruins team has showed they can win in many different ways and they’re getting contributions up and down the lineup with fourth line center Tomas Nosek even currently riding a four-game point streak. The 19 different goal scorers this season and eight players already with double-digit points speaks to deep, talented roster that’s been married perfectly with a Jim Montgomery coaching system that preaches pace, creativity and simple rules of thumb about positioning and where the puck should be going.

Who knew that stressing shot quality over shot quantity and living, eating, sleeping and breathing the team concept would make this Boston Bruins hockey club greater than the sum of its parts?

“I think that’s what is so great about [Jim Montgomery’s] system is that it’s so fast, but so predictable,” said Foligno. “I think the way we’re playing is tailored to a lot of guys in this room and we feel that when we are playing then we know where guys are supposed to be. Your kind of playing with that sixth sense.

“It’s dangerous because we’re playing with so much speed too. So when those guys are in the right spots it makes it hard on other teams. It’s positioning, but it’s also that we know where the puck is going to go, what our routes are going to be on breakouts and on the forecheck. It’s little rules of thumb that aren’t set in stone. It just helps as we get to know each other, and we get confident winning battles because we know another guy is there to help us out.”

While pretty much everybody around the Boston Bruins is singing the Lego Movie’s “Everything is Awesome” right now, there does remain one massive question. What’s going to happen when things begin to unravel?

The Boston Bruins have lost just twice in over a month of hockey and each of those road games was at the end of a busy, challenging stretch where they clearly weren’t at their best. The Bruins will have to withstand adversity at some point even if injuries couldn’t derail them early in the season and they will need to make adjustments when opposing teams catch on to the new wrinkles that they’ve added to their system.

For now, though, enjoy the ride baby.

“It’s hard to win one game. But to win this many games – 17 games, 15 wins – that crazy,” said Krejci, who was part of Boston’s third period explosion in the final 10 minutes of the game. “Nobody expected that. We’re staying even keel here. We’re focusing on the task at hand. We’ve been doing a pretty good job at it. We’re getting ready. We always put the game behind us, we move on.”

Now the Boston Bruins move on to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday and a really challenging road swing through Florida next week that will be a really telling Atlantic Division test for a hockey club that’s looked bulletproof in the early going.

 

 

 

Joe Haggerty has covered the Boston Bruins and the NHL for 18 years with NBC Sports Boston, WEEI.com, the Boston Metro and the Woburn Daily Times, and currently serves as lead Bruins reporter and columnist for Boston Hockey Now. Haggs always strives to capture the spirt of the thing any way that he can.

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