Bruins' stellar play vs. top teams among biggest reasons for Stanley Cup optimism

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Stellar play vs. top teams among biggest reasons to be optimistic about B's originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins own the NHL's second-best record (and fewest losses) at 18-3-0 entering Tuesday, and there are many reasons for this record-setting early-season success.

A soft schedule isn't one of them.

Boston has played 13 games against teams currently in a playoff spot or within two points of a berth. The B's have won 11 of those matchups by a combined score of 51-31. The Bruins were 2-6-0 at this point of last season versus teams that eventually made the playoffs.

The most recent of these games was one of the Bruins' most encouraging wins of the season.

The Bruins entered Saturday's matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes leading for 401:14 of the 414:26 of ice time they had played through the first 11 games at TD Garden this season. That's a whopping 97 percent of lead time at home. But the Hurricanes led nearly the entire afternoon. In fact, the Bruins' only lead was a 3-2 advantage secured when David Pastrnak scored the game-winner in overtime as Boston set the league record for consecutive home victories to begin a season with 12.

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"You don't want to put all the emphasis on the record. But we have something special and we want to carry that on," Bergeron said of the comeback victory over the Hurricanes. "We want to show some character. I thought it was a character win."

It was a gutsy win for the B's in a game they almost certainly would have lost at this time last season. But it wasn't the only dominant effort the Bruins have given against a top-tier team over the first quarter of the season.

Last week's 5-3 win over the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning was quite impressive. The Lightning looked poised to run the Bruins out of the building after taking a 1-0 lead with a 9-0 advantage in shots on net over the first 10 minutes at Amalie Arena. But the Bruins regrouped and completely flipped the momentum with five unanswered goals.

The Bruins' craziest win of the season came at the beginning of the month against a still-dangerous Pittsburgh Penguins squad on the road. The B's trailed 5-2 in the second period and lost goalie Jeremy Swayman to injury, but they scored four unanswered goals for a 6-5 overtime victory. Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm assisted on the first three of those tallies before scoring the game-winner himself on a spectacular end-to-end rush in OT.

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The Bruins will need to continue their dominance over the league's top teams to maintain the franchise's record-setting start to the year. That's because the B's are in the early stages of the toughest three-week stretch on their regular season schedule.

After hosting the Lightning on Tuesday night, the Bruins play the defending champion Colorado Avalanche twice, the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights twice, plus other opponents currently occupying a playoff spot such as the New York Islanders and Los Angeles Kings over the next two weeks.

  • 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

  • Dec. 13: vs. New York Islanders

  • Dec. 15: vs. Los Angeles Kings

The Bruins have already sent a strong message to the rest of the league with their stellar start to the campaign. And given the difficulty of their upcoming schedule, they have an opportunity to make a few more statements by beating some of the league's very best teams in the coming weeks.

"As much as it's a measuring stick, I think for us and where our game's at, as the year has gone on you get into a little bit of a roll, and now we've had some breaks in between games, too. Can you stay hot and keep the same mindset?" Bruins forward Nick Foligno told reporters Monday. "I'm proud of the guys for the way we've handled things. These are good teams. We're going to get every team's best. It doesn't matter how we played before, we should expect to get everyone's best."

One of the common denominators among all great teams is the ability to play at an elite level against the best competition. The Bruins have passed that test through the first 25 percent of the season, and it's one of the primary reasons why they are the betting favorites to win the Eastern Conference and reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2019.

"We should always expect that we're gonna get a team's best," Foligno said. "I think that's a nice feeling and something that this group has worked hard for, long before I got here. We want to continue that. We know, we've talked about it, we're building something special. We can't be surprised by anything, just continue to work toward our process and trust in what we're doing and in each other. There's a reason our record is what it is."

If the Bruins get through this tough stretch and still have the first- or second-best record in the league, they'll be no doubt about which team is the Stanley Cup favorite as the calendar flips to 2023.