Three key factors powering Bruins’ historically strong start to season

Three key factors powering Bruins’ historically strong start to season originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins are one of the hottest teams in all of sports right now.

The B’s are 6-0-0 after beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0 on the road Tuesday night, capping a perfect 4-0-0 road trip. It ties the best start to a season in Bruins history, matching the 1937-38 team. The NHL record for consecutive wins to begin a season is 10, set by the 1993-94 Toronto Maple Leafs and 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres.

“Loved the results, loved our goaltending,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters Tuesday night after his team capped a perfect 4-0-0 road trip. “Starting to see our team identity build. I think the L.A. game and this game tonight you’re starting to see us become a heavy, grinding team, which is I think what we’re gonna have to be.”

The Bruins won the Presidents’ Trophy last season but lost a lot of good players over the summer, so this incredible start is a little bit surprising. But if you looked at their roster entering Opening Night, as we wrote about numerous times, there was still more than enough talent on this team to be very competitive.

It’s also understandable if some fans are a little hesitant to get really excited over this hot start after the Bruins lost in the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs following a record-breaking regular season. A great regular season is no guarantee of success in April, May and June. And that’s especially true in hockey more than other sports.

But any 6-0-0 start to a season is impressive. How have the Bruins earned this early success? Here are three key factors.

New faces and new roles

The Bruins lost a bunch of forwards in the offseason, most notably Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tyler Bertuzzi and Taylor Hall. Boston signed several veterans in the offseason to plug these holes up front, and the team also was boosted by the surprise emergence of center prospect Matthew Poitras.

Poitras’ excellent play is the top storyline surrounding the Bruins right now. The 19-year-old forward has excelled in pretty much every role he’s been thrown into. Poitras scored twice, including the game-winning goal, in Sunday’s win over the Ducks. He scored again against the Blackhawks on Tuesday, giving him a league-leading three goals among rookies.

“I felt like I just got better and better as (the road trip) went along,” Poitras told reporters after Tuesday’s win. “That helps me feel better on the ice and shift by shift. Confidence level is pretty high.”

The Bruins have three more games before they must decide whether to keep Poitras or send him back to the OHL. He’s made the decision incredibly easy for them.

James van Riemsdyk has been a strong addition at left wing. The Bruins signed him for just $1 million, and he’s already tallied five points (three goals, two assists).

Morgan Geekie has three points (one goal, two assists), while playing a strong physical game and winning 52.9 percent of his faceoffs. Kevin Shattenkirk was the only notable offseason addition on the blue line and he’s made a good impact, too.

Trent Frederic set career highs in goals and assists last season, and he’s building on that success with a great start this year. He has two goals and an assist with 12 shots in six games. His chemistry with Charlie Coyle on the third line is fantastic, and it would be wise of head coach Jim Montgomery to not break them up.

Consistency will be critical to the Bruins’ success offensively, but the scoring depth concerns before the season have not materialized to this point. It also helps when your most talented player, David Pastrnak, scores five goals with three assists in the first six games.

Elite goaltending

It was fair to expect a regression (even a small one) in the Bruins’ goaltending this season after the Linus Ullmark/Jeremy Swayman tandem was historically good in 2022-23, including Ullmark winning the Vezina Trophy.

But so far, this duo has been nearly unbeatable. Ullmark (.962) and Swayman (.957) rank No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in save percentage among the 36 goalies who have played at least 175 minutes (around three starts) this season.

The Bruins have allowed just 1.16 goals per game and rank No. 2 with a .957 5-on-5 save percentage.

The real question is whether these two netminders are capable of playing at this high level during the playoffs. So far, neither player has proven that, although the sample size for both is fairly small. But there’s no better duo in the league during the regular season.

Soft schedule

The Bruins have played a very easy schedule to this point. Of course, they deserve credit for taking advantage of it and winning every game so far, but the difficulty has been lacking.

They’ve played the Blackhawks twice, and Chicago sits at the bottom of the Central Division. They beat the Sharks last week, and San Jose is now 0-5-1 at the bottom of the Pacific Division. The Nashville Predators are an average team. The Anaheim Ducks are expected to be a team high in the draft lottery. The 4-2 win over the Kings last weekend was a strong win for the Bruins, but L.A. is their only opponent so far with real playoff aspirations.

The schedule is about to get a lot tougher for Boston. Beginning Saturday, the Bruins play the Red Wings (twice), Panthers, Leafs, Stars and Islanders through Nov. 9. That’s a tough six-game stretch, and if the Bruins come out of it with three or more wins, that will be impressive and lend a little more credibility to their strong start to the season.


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