Is Bruins' hot start for real? The schedule is about to get much harder originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Bruins blew a golden opportunity to make team history Thursday night after they squandered a 3-1 lead in the third period and lost in overtime to a bad Anaheim Ducks team they had beaten just four days earlier.
The 4-3 defeat, which dropped Boston's record to 6-0-1, prevented the Bruins from earning the best start to a season in franchise history. They had been tied with the 1937-38 team at 6-0-0.
Despite the brutal loss to the Ducks, a 6-0-1 start is still pretty damn good for the B's, especially after all of the roster turnover in the offseason that saw key players such as Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci depart.
The key to the Bruins' early-season success has been defense and goaltending. This is how the Bruins need to play to be successful after losing players who combined to score 102 of the team's 301 goals last season. Boston's 11 goals allowed are the fewest of any team. The B's also rank No. 1 with a .946 save percentage, far ahead of the second-place Vegas Golden Knights at a .933 save percentage. Boston's penalty ranks No. 1 with a 96.7 percent success rate.
Sounds great, right? It does, but context is always important, and the Bruins' schedule to this point has been very soft.
They've played the Ducks twice, and Anaheim is expected to be a bottom feeder this season. They've twice beaten the Chicago Blackhawks, who sit at the bottom of the Central Division and probably will remain there. The Bruins also beat the San Jose Sharks -- the league's only winless team entering Friday. The Nashville Predators are another B's opponent, and they are second-to-last in the Central. A 4-2 win over the Kings was impressive, though, because Los Angeles is a legit playoff-caliber opponent.
The Bruins have taken advantage of this easy schedule, and that could end up benefitting them tremendously late in the regular season if the races for home ice and first place in the Atlantic Division are close, and there's a good chance they will be.
But just how good are the Bruins?
We're about to find out because their schedule is about to get much more difficult. In fact, the Bruins' remaining schedule is the fourth-toughest of all 32 teams.
It begins Saturday with a home game against the Detroit Red Wings, whose offseason additions and impressive young core are finally putting it all together. First-line center Dylan Larkin and summer acquisition Alex DeBrincat are leading a Red Wings team that leads the league with 35 goals. Detroit plays the B's twice in the next seven days.
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) October 22, 2023
Next Monday, the Florida Panthers make their first trip to Boston since eliminating the record-breaking 2022-23 Bruins in Game 7 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Panthers are missing a few key players due to injuries, but Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Reinhart and Sam Bennett are healthy and playing well.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the league's top teams. They will be at TD Garden next Thursday. After that game, the Bruins travel on the road to play the Dallas Stars -- a top contender in the Western Conference -- and a pesky New York Islanders squad that's hard to play against with its aggressive forecheck and excellent goaltending.
The Bruins play the Montreal Canadiens twice in a three-day span in November. The Habs have been one of the league's most surprising teams with a 4-2-1 record. Most experts had Montreal finishing at, or near the bottom, of the Atlantic. That might still happen, but the Canadiens have wildly exceeded expectations to this point and will no doubt be fired up to make a statement versus the Bruins. Montreal has allowed the fewest 5-on-5 goals with five.
Here's a full look at Boston's challenging upcoming schedule.
Oct. 28 vs. Red Wings
Oct. 30 vs. Panthers
Nov. 2 vs. Maple Leafs
Nov. 4 at Red Wings
Nov. 6 at Stars
Nov. 9 vs. Islanders
Nov. 11 at Canadiens
Nov. 14 at Sabres
Nov. 18 vs. Canadiens
Nov. 20 at Lightning
Nov. 22 at Panthers
Nov. 24 vs. Red Wings
Nov. 25 at Rangers
Could the Bruins struggle during this stretch and still end up being one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference? Of course. It's a long season, and the goal is to be healthy and playing well in April, not November. After last season, the Bruins know better than anyone that dominating the first couple months is not a great predictor of playoff success.
But there's no question this five-week stretch against a bunch of top teams will tell us a lot about the Bruins. They are going to play some of the most highly skilled offensive teams, which will put their defense and goaltending to the test. Five of these opponents rank in the top 10 in goals allowed, and that will test the Bruins' offense, which has had just an average start to the season. The B's rank 17th in shot attempts, 16th in shots on net, 10th in scoring chances and 10th in goals scored at 5-on-5. Boston's power play ranks 19th.
Matthew Poitras has more-than-earned a full-season roster spot with the Bruins after tallying five points (three goals, two assists) over his first seven games, but how will the 19-year-old center fare when he's going up against much better and more physical competition over the next five weeks?
The Bruins have put themselves in a strong position after the first two weeks of the season. They own the best record in the East. But now the real test begins.