Bruins' record start faces huge test as most brutal stretch of schedule begins originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Bruins are the best team in the NHL as Thanksgiving approaches, and they're not just beating teams with regularity, they're destroying them.
The Original Six club has a league-leading plus-37 goal differential with eight wins by three or more goals. The B's are 11-0-0 at home, lead the league in goals scored with 74 and have allowed the fewest goals with 37. Boston's special teams have been magnificent, too, ranking No. 5 in power play percentage and No. 2 in penalty kill percentage.
The Bruins have won six consecutive games, giving them a league-best 16-2-0 record entering Monday.
Any way you look at it, this Bruins team has been as dominant as it gets.
Maintaining this historically strong start to the 2022-23 season is about to get even tougher, though, because the Bruins' schedule significantly ramps up in difficulty over the next couple weeks.
"It's unfathomable that we were going to have this start, right? So we're enjoying the ride right now, but we know our schedule is getting really hard," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said after his team's 6-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. "It's nice to be part of the record books. One thing we want to focus on doing is staying in the present and focus on the next shift, and I think we did a great job of that tonight."
The Bruins haven't had the easiest schedule to begin the campaign, but it also hasn't been the hardest by any means. Eleven of their 18 games have been played at TD Garden. Half of their matchups were against playoff teams from last season.
The next three weeks present plenty of enormous tests for the B's, beginning Monday night when they open a two-game road trip versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins have not played the three-time defending Eastern Conference champs (and 2020 and 2021 Cup winners) yet this season. After a 1-3-0 start, the Lightning have righted the ship with a 7-2-1 record in their last 10, including a four-game win streak. Boston plays Tampa Bay twice over the next eight days.
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The Bruins also play the Florida Panthers on the road Wednesday. The Panthers won the Presidents' Trophy last season and have a loaded roster. The B's will play a Black Friday matinee this week versus the Carolina Hurricanes, who defeated Boston in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs and currently sit in second place in the Metropolitan Division. The Hurricanes were a popular preseason Stanley Cup champion pick.
The defending champion Colorado Avalanche play the Bruins twice over the next two weeks. The Bruins also have two games against the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights, who have shown massive improvement under former B's head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Here's a look at the Bruins' upcoming schedule:
Nov. 21: at Lightning
Nov. 23: at Panthers
Nov. 25: vs. Hurricanes
Nov. 29: vs. Lightning
Dec. 3: vs. Avalanche
Dec. 5: vs. Golden Knights
Dec. 7: at Avalanche
Dec. 9: at Coyotes
Dec. 11: at Golden Knights
These six teams have a combined 60-37-9 record and, as noted above, include the last three Stanley Cup winners.
The Bruins were expected to struggle out of the gate in 2022-23 with first-line left wing Brad Marchand, No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy and top-four defenseman Matt Grzelcyk all out of the lineup on Opening Night due to injuries. Instead of just treading water until these players returned, the Bruins are off to the franchise's best start since 1929-30.
The next three weeks are pivotal, though. If the Bruins continue to play at an elite level and roll through the likes of the Lightning, Avalanche and Golden Knights, there will be little doubt that Boston is the top Stanley Cup contender as the 2023 Winter Classic nears.
This upcoming stretch is by far the most challenging portion of the Bruins' regular season schedule based on quality of opponents.