So there were the Boston Bruins on Friday afternoon, trailing 2-0 late in the second period at home during the team’s Black Friday matinee, putting forth a fairly listless performance and in the process of sabotaging the theme of today’s column.
That was to be to highlight the amazing run the Black & Gold are off to this season, having lost only three games in regulation through the team’s first 25 games, and having gone undefeated in regulation play in its 13 home games.
A loss Friday to the New York Rangers would have put a damper on this feel-good story, but then the Bruins did what they have been doing all year — rally from behind and find a way to snatch a victory.
And that’s what they did, tying the game early in the third period and putting away the Broadway Blueshirts with an overtime tally from David Krejci to emerge victorious again. Boston is now a ridiculous 18-3-5 at nearly the one-third mark of the regular season, along with a 10-0-4 home record and a 10-game unbeaten streak.
Take a close look at those three losses and you’ll see that the B’s were in position to tie the game in the final seconds of each of those games. An empty-net goal with a minute left in Boston’s fourth game of the season sealed a 4-2 Colorado Avalanche victory that saw the Bruins have not one, but two goals overturned on video replay; and in a 5-4 loss to Montreal on the second night of back-to-back games, the Bruins fought back from a 3-1 first-period deficit and appeared to take a 5-4 lead in the third when a coach’s challenge negated the go-ahead goal and changed each team’s momentum.
In the Bruins’ only real stinkbomb this season, they went to Detroit to take on a Red Wings team that was mired in a 1-11-1 rut, and saw Detroit score on two of its six power-play chances to claim a 4-2 victory — again clinched by a late-game empty-netter.
But Friday’s victory was not only impressive because the team dug out of a two-goal hole to the Rangers, but also because the Bruins were playing their third game in four days (two of which were north of the border) and skating without arguably their most complete player, Patrice Bergeron, for the fifth time in seven games.
Luckily for Boston, it has one of the league’s most prolific scorers in 23-year-old David Pastrnak, who potted his 23rd goal of the season in only his 25th game on Friday. Pastrnak also has 16 assists (including the helper on Krejci’s OT strike), as his 39 points are good for fourth in the league this season.
Not to be forgotten is Pasta’s first-line teammate, Brad Marchand, who has 18 goals and 43 points, and his plus-20 mark leads the NHL.
The team’s 96 goals also top the league, and the Bruins have already opened up a stunning 15-point lead in the ultra-competitive Atlantic Division. Even more impressive, Boston’s total of 41 points in the overall standings is seven points better than the next best team (the streaking Islanders, with 34).
But the offense alone is not enough to stake the Bruins as a Cup favorite; the defense has given up just 64 goals in 26 contests, allowing Boston to have the best goal differential in the NHL (+32, which is a whopping 11 goals better than the second-ranked team), and is surrendering just under two-and-a-half goals per game.
While it has seemed that the goaltender tandem of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak has evenly split the net duties, Rask has actually been in net in 16 of the team’s 26 games, going 12-2-2 while compiling a minuscule 2.10 GAA, which is second-best in all of hockey. But Halak hasn’t been a slouch, either, as Friday’s lockdown victory lifted the Slovakian netminder’s mark to 6-1-3, with a 2.35 GAA (good for eighth-best in the NHL).
In the team’s last eight games, the Bruins’ goaltending duo has kept the opponent to two goals or fewer in regulation in seven of those matchups.
Friday’s victory kicked off a five-game homestand for the Bruins, who many expected would have a lingering hangover from the team’s seven-game Stanley Cup Final loss to the Blues. So far, so good for this talent-laden and deep roster as it hopes to make amends for last season’s disappointment.
Meanwhile, the Bruins’ co-tenants at TD Garden, the Celtics, are also worth mentioning. They’re not off to the scorching start that the B’s are, but they’re 13-5 after Friday’s loss to the Kyrie Irving-less Brooklyn Nets, and are just a half-game behind the defending NBA champion Raptors in the East’s Atlantic Division, which has four of its five teams boast above-.500 records.
Like the Bruins, the Celtics are also undefeated at home (7-0), but they’ve been competitive in every single game since their lackluster 107-93 opening-night defeat to the Sixers. Prior to Friday’s loss in Brooklyn, three of Boston’s four previous setbacks came on their recent five-game West-Coast road trip, by a combined margin of eight points.
That trip saw the Green have a potential game-winning shot fall off the rim at the buzzer, take the NBA-favorite Clippers to overtime, and then rally from 21 points down — after losing their point guard, Kemba Walker, to a neck injury in the third quarter — before bowing by just four to the Denver Nuggets in one of the league’s toughest arenas.
Oh, and the Celtics have stayed in the competitive mix in the last 10 games despite having lost arguably their best player, Gordon Hayward, to a wrist injury Nov. 9. The smooth-shooting forward was playing excellent ball prior to the injury, and though he was initially expected to miss six weeks after surgery, he has stated recently that he feels he is ahead of schedule in his recovery and could be back much sooner.
Boston sports fans have yet to see any of their three fall/winter sports teams lose a home game, and all three are among their respective leagues’ elites.
Enjoy those leftovers, folks!