December 29, 2011

Amid mesmerizing streak, Bruins still a hungry bunch

By Jesse Connolly

It’s been precisely two months now, but the days before the Bruins began their incomparably mesmerizing, 21-2-1 run now seem like a lifetime ago. In fact, many have likely started to wonder if that wretched, 3-7-0 start was simply a figment of their imagination. 

In earning 43 out of a possible 48 points in their last 24 tilts, the Bruins have barreled over the competition, outscoring their opponents by a combined, mind-blowing score of 99-39 over that stretch. During their current seven-game winning streak, they’ve buried 32 goals and yielded just eight.

They are the league’s highest-scoring squad. They’ve allowed fewer goals than any of the other 29 clubs. They are a team chock full of league leaders in a wide array of categories.

And as the calendar soon turns to 2012, every last member of the hockey universe is wondering if anything can slow down the Bruins.

“It’s a humbling game,” coach Claude Julien said after the team’s latest victory, a 2-1 win over Phoenix. “We don’t get too high in those situations, and we look at what’s going on. We won tonight but I think we could’ve been a better team. The other team was just as good, if not better tonight, so, we look at finding ways to win, we do that.”

Boston’s run of stellar netminding continued on Wednesday, as Tuukka Rask’s 21-save effort vaulted him into the league lead in both goals-against average (1.61) and save percentage (.945). Tim Thomas, who’s having another Vezina-worthy season himself, is right behind him in each of those categories.

The B’s best asset to date has been the superb scoring balance they’ve received. Boston now has 11 players with six goals or more. Detroit (10) is the only other NHL team with a double-digit total of players with a half-dozen goals or more so far this season.

Yet still, despite the fact that they’ve played nearly flawless hockey for the past 60-or-so days, the Bruins remain a hungry bunch.

They don’t rest on leads. They don’t throw in the towel when faced with deficits. They understand now, better than ever, what it takes to win on a nightly basis.

“There’s still is lots of room for us to improve and keep getting better,” Julien said. “We’re a fairly healthy team and we’ll have our challenges along the way, no doubt.”

If they keep conquering those challenges at the same rate, whoever is in charge of the NHL’s proverbial record books might have some rewriting to do.