It is certainly possible that the Bruins could grow complacent, winning every game, racking up the points, sitting a whopping 15 ahead of their closest competition in the Atlantic Division. They have now won eight straight games, putting themselves 3 points ahead of Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference, though the Penguins have a game in hand.
That has happened in other seasons, where the Bruins have eased up, lost a few here and there, and still made waves in the postseason. So it was interesting the reaction to Milan Lucic’s comment on Saturday, when he said, “I just hope we’re not peaking right now. We need to keep wanting more and we’ve done a good job of kind of staying on course and getting focused on the task at hand.”
He didn’t sound like he was joking, though that was Jarome Iginla’s read on the quote, when it was repeated back to him. And when asked about it, coach Claude Julien said, “Well, if he thinks we’re peaking too soon, I can show him a lot of areas where we can get better. That’s not hard for me to find.”
And perhaps that’s the more important point — that the Bruins are playing well, but not their best, most recently taking a 5-1 win over Carolina on Saturday at TD Garden.
There was sloppiness at times against the Hurricanes, but the Bruins overcame it in a game that was close until Boston scored three times — including twice in 13 seconds — in the third period.
“Things are going well and it’s a fun roll that we’re on as a group,” Iginla said. “But nobody is complacent. Every day we’re trying to come and stay focused, and the coaching staff and [Zdeno Chara] has got us focused. It’s game time, it’s ready to go. But it’s been a lot of fun, too.”
Part of that has been the run that the top line is on, one that has the trio recording 47 points in their last 14 games. That included two goals by Iginla on Saturday — making it four in his last four games — plus a goal and two assists by Lucic and three assists by David Krejci.
“It just feels like everything is clicking for our line right now,” Lucic said. “It’s a good feeling that we have right now, we’ve got to keep pushing and wanting more.”
The Bruins got on the board first, on a broken play that worked out perfectly for them. After a Carolina turnover at the Bruins’ blue line, the home team took the puck back up the ice. Lucic passed it to Krejci who, while sprawled on the ice, managed to knock it toward Lucic on the right side of the net, and he put it home at 15:28 of the first.
“He said he was going to shoot, so it was kind of a lucky play to come back to me,” Lucic said. “But again, you’ve got to be lucky to be good sometimes, and that’s what happened there.”
They added on in the second, with Iginla getting his 22d of the season at 17:24. Lucic won a puck back behind the net then passed it to Iginla in the left circle. The winger put it past Cam Ward (36 saves) high glove side for the score.
After Carolina got one back at 3:53 of the third, the puck bouncing off Carl Soderberg and Johnny Boychuk on its way, the Bruins added two more in 13 seconds, with Chris Kelly scoring at 12:49 and Iginla getting his second of the game at 13:02. Those goals came not long after Boychuk had slammed into the boards, a scene that Dougie Hamilton called “scary,” and which had Boychuk limping off the ice. The defenseman did return to the game almost immediately, after going down the tunnel.
Torey Krug finished off the scoring with 10 seconds left in the game, giving the Bruins and Chad Johnson (29 saves) the victory.
That left the Bruins with their longest winning streak since a 10-game streak in November 2011, and left them within 4 points of St. Louis for the top spot in the NHL after the Blues defeated Nashville, 4-1, on Saturday night.
“You want to keep pushing for that top spot [in the East] and home-ice advantage is huge in the playoffs, especially when you get into the later rounds of the playoffs,” Lucic said. “We’re just trying to win hockey games and finish as high as we can in the standings. That’s the goal from the start of the season and we’re going to continue doing that.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.