The Bruins must wait until Friday, when they play their post-Thanksgiving matinee against the Hurricanes at the Garden, to try to claim some exclusive acreage in the NHL record book. They will be going for a 12th straight victory on Causeway Street, after Saturday night making it 11 in a row from the start of the new season with an easy 6-1 dismissal of the Blackhawks.
On Sunday, the Bruins boarded their flight to Tampa, less than 24 hours after dispatching the downtrodden sons of Bobby Hull, just oozing with Black-and-Gold confidence. They’ve never been this hot to start a new season (16-2-0), and rarely in the post-Orr era have they been so structurally sound and dominating, be it at home or away.
All the winning, noted David Krejci, has been “a feather in our cap.”
“But let’s not get carried away,” the veteran Czech center reminded late last week as his goal-scoring finally began to warm up, “there’s still a long way to go. We just have to stay with the process.”
Veteran winger Nick Foligno recalled a time years ago in Columbus, where he served a long stretch as the captain, that the Blue Jackets won 16 straight overall.
“Everyone was excited, couldn’t wait to get to the rink,” recalled Foligno. “This is kinda the same, but different … guys are confident … we’re just going about our business.”
The job portends to be significantly tougher this week, because the competition that awaits is far more formidable than the trio of Vancouver-Philadelphia-Chicago that the Bruins just sent careening out of the Garden as victims Nos. 9, 10, and 11 on home ice.
The Bruins didn’t trail for a second in those three games and led by an aggregate 128:06, a touch over 71 percent of the total playing time. Again, dominating. Each night saw a different Bruin start the scoring — Connor Clifton vs. Vancouver, Tomas Nosek vs. Philadelphia and David Pastrnak vs. Chicago. As of Sunday morning, those three visitors were a combined 19-24-10, none likely to be among the 16 teams that advance to the playoffs.
But now it’s Tampa Bay (Monday), Florida (Wednesday) and Carolina, a trio that as of Sunday held a combined mark of 30-18-6. All three should be postseason qualifiers. Not a cupcake in the bunch.
The Lightning, a postseason nemesis of the Bruins, have been the hottest of the bunch, rattling off four straight wins and paced again this year by a healthy Nikita Kucherov (10-18–28). World-class goaltender Andrei Vasilveskiy (7-5-1, .909 save percentage, 2.84 goals against average) has looked rather ordinary, particularly in comparison with Bruins No. 1 Linus Ullmark (12-1-0, .937, 1.89), the hottest goalie in the game.
Florida, in Columbus Sunday night, had lost three of its last four with both of their goalies, ex-Boston College Eagle Spencer Knight and Sergei Bobrovsky, still struggling to find their “A” games. Matthew Tkachuk (team-best 8-17—25) has delivered as expected after being acquired in the Jonathan Huberdeau swap over the summer.
The Hurricanes have sputtered lately, losing three of four (1-1-2), yet they still rank second only to red-hot New Jersey (12 straight wins) in the Metropolitan Division. Martin Necas, their 23-year-old forward now in his fourth season, has emerged as their top producer (8-14–22).
Carolina eliminated the Bruins in seven first-round playoff games last spring. This will be the teams’ first meeting since the Hurricanes acquired back-end force Brent Burns from the Sharks over the summer. Through games of Saturday night, a line of 3-9-12 ranked the 37-year-old Burns at T18 among all NHL defensemen.
Ullmark knows what matters
Ullmark, the likely starter in Tampa, has won four straight since his 2-1 loss in Toronto on Nov. 5.
As a young, developing goalie in Sweden, Ullmark tried to model his game after NHL greats Dominik Hasek and Patrick Roy, endlessly watching their work on highlight reels he found on the Internet. Ullmark on Saturday recalled how he was sometimes criticized by his coaches because of his aggressive, at times unorthodox style, bits of which he borrowed from those Hasek highlights.
“I was hurt, because they had their way, their style, and it was, ‘Linus, you’re not stopping the puck the right way?’ ” noted Ullmark. “I thought all that mattered was to stop the puck.”
Bruins coach Jim Montgomery wouldn’t lay out his game-to-game plans for his backstops, but logic dictates Ullmark vs. the Lightning, followed by Jeremy Swayman against the Panthers, then Ullmark back at the Garden Friday for the potential record-setting W.
Two servings of Pasta
Pastrnak’s pair of goals Saturday came after the elite Czech striker had scored only once in the previous six games. It was also his first two-goal game of the season. As of Sunday morning, “Pasta” ranked T3 in league scoring with 28 points, behind the dynamic Oilers duo of Connor McDavid (34) and Leon Draisaitl (30) … On home ice, over their 11 wins, the Bruins have accumulated a humongous advantage in lead time of 404:14 to 15:12. Only the Wild and Flames have managed short-term leads on Causeway this season … With 32 points in the first 18 games, even a .500 mark over the next 64 games would bring the Bruins a total of 96 points, potentially enough to clinch a playoff spot … Patrice Bergeron begins the road tip with a career line of 409-590–999. He’s about to be only the fourth player in Black and Gold to reach 1,000 points, joining Ray Bourque (1,506), John Bucyk (1,339), and Phil Esposito (1,012) … The Boston defensemen, led Saturday night by Charlie McAvoy’s four assists, have produced 45 points over the first 18 games. They rolled up a 31–119–150 line last season.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.