Nine games into the season, the Bruins find themselves leading the division over Ottawa and Montreal by 5 points with a 5-2-1-1 record. To say that the team has exceeded expectation is an understatement; this team was projected to battle for one of the bottom playoff spots in the East while the Hoover Rankings had them finishing 22nd overall.
“Look, it’s so early,” GM Gallant said on Saturday afternoon. “I’ve been on the outside for a long time, watching and taking notes. I know that things can change on a dime. We’re very fortunate to be where we’re at now and we’re growing confident, definitely. But we know that we’re playing above our heads a little bit here. Doesn’t make it any less fun though, right?”
The team has managed to topple some of last year’s top teams, including Washington in the season opener, Anaheim, the Islanders, Arizona and Nashville. The Predators and Hurricanes, who the Bruins lost to in overtime, both made the conference finals in 2017.
After coming out of the gate with a 3-0-1 record, the team suffered two lopsided defeats, first to the mighty Colorado Avalanche 6-2. “We scored early, that team just has so much talent,” Gallant said. The Dallas Stars handed Boston their 2nd regulation loss in as many games, shutting out the Bruins 3-0. Dallas has bolstered their team significantly after trading for Malkin, signing Talbot as well as inking Mitch Marner.
The Bruins have otherwise kept the games low scoring. As a team, they have scored just 2.44 goals per game, while allowing 2.33, ranking them 7th in the league. Gallant emphasized a defense-first approach that has translated well early in the season. Corey Crawford has led the troops with a 4-2-1 record with a 2.20 GAA and a .915 save percentage. Antti Niemi, who has played in parts of 4 games, has even better numbers. He’s allowed just two goals per game while saving over 93% of shots faced.
The team’s leading scorer is Zach Parise, with 8 points in 9 games. Just below him are a trio of players with 6 points apiece, that being Steen, Connolly and Schenn. Although he has yet to find the back of the net, Josh Anderson has tallied 5 assists and leads the team with a plus seven rating. The team will look for their offense to produce a touch more, and they’ll look to their UFA signing Trevor Lewis to help. He has only two points on the year, both are goals. Jeff Petry has equally struggled, putting up only two apples so far with only 7 shots on goal.
Boston’s schedule lightens quite a bit next week, playing in Ottawa against their division rivals before returning home to face New Jersey. The week after will see the team battle in 4 games, all in consecutive nights. Expect to see Niemi draw into the starter role in at least one of those games.
Before leaving for Ottawa, GM Gallant added “we’re in the middle of the pack on the power play, on the penalty kill, and we give him a ton of shots every night. But, they’re low quality shots. We’re going to keep playing our game and we expect the same results to continue.”