The Boston Bruins caught the attention of everyone in the NHL when they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning once again on Thursday Night 4-2. Boston took possession of first place in the Atlantic Division after the win. The Bruins record is 48-17-11 with 107 points, with six points remaining.
They have a game in hand on the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston has beaten Tampa Bay twice already this season. They have one more meeting on Tuesday April 3 in Tampa. Is it safe to admit the Boston Bruins are the favorites in the eastern conference and no one is going to beat them in a seven-game series in the east?
I thought to myself last night, it is very possible they are going to be in the Stanley Cup Finals come June, no one will beat them in the eastern conference, and this Bruins team might be better than the one that won it all in 2011. Boston plays an up tempo kind of game under head coach Bruce Cassidy.
They play fundamentally sound hockey, they don’t have many defensive lapses, they make timely saves, and they score timely goals. The Bruins now have the best goal differential in the NHL at 57 (253 goals scored/196 goals given up).
The Bruins might have the best line in the NHL (David Pastrnak, Patrice Begeron, and Brad Marchand). That line has a combined 219 points. Boston has different role players stepping up every night, including rookie Ryan Donato. Donato is proving himself he belongs in the NHL with three goals and two assists in six games played.
Defenseman Torey Krug has 57 points so far this season (14 goals and 43 assists). They have one of the best defensive units in the NHL. Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Nick Holden, Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk and Adam McQuaid.
Goaltenders Tuukka Rask (33-11-5 record, .918 save percentage and a 2.31 GAA, along with three shutouts) and Anton Khudobin (15-6-6 record, .915 save percentage and a 2.53 GAA, along with one shutout) have been one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL so far this season. Rask has only played in 50 games and he hasn’t been overworked, which means he should be well rested and ready to roll come playoff time.
Who is the biggest threat to the Boston Bruins right now in the eastern conference? If the season ended today, the Bruins would play the New Jersey Devils and Boston won the season series 3-0. In the second round, Boston would face either Tampa Bay or Toronto. The Bruins lost the season series to the Maple Leafs 3-1, but I think Boston’s style would cause fits to Toronto’s especially in a playoff series.
If Boston were to get to the conference finals, the most legitimate matchup for them would be the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston beat them two-out-of-three in the regular season. The Bruins have the Penguins number as of late and Rask usually dominates Pittsburgh.
They could also face the Washington Capitals or the Columbus Blue Jackets. Boston got swept to Washington 3-0 during the regular season series. If Washington for some reason reaches the conference finals, the Capitals could be the biggest threat for the Bruins.
Columbus beat Boston 2-1 in the regular season series. If the Blue Jackets do reach the conference finals, they would pose a grind to Boston. They have a stifling defense, a tough offense, and Sergei Bobrovsky between the pipes.
If I were a betting man, I would pick the Boston Bruins to win the east right now for a couple of reasons 1.) They are the most balanced team in the NHL. 2.) Don’t expect them to face Washington or Columbus in the ECF because the odds are Pittsburgh will knock them off again. 3.) Boston has Pittsburgh’s number. 4.) The Pastrnak-Begeron-Marchand, will be tough to stop and have excellent role players to step up.