Even when they spot their opponent four goals on the first nine shots, the Boston Bruins are unbeatable in November. In the eight games they’ve played in 19 days, which by the way is their busiest stretch of the year, they are 7-0-1 and have outscored opponents 34 to 14. The only loss, that in a shootout, was to the New York Rangers in a game the B’s led 2-0 with just under six minutes to go.
But consider this: their wild 7-4 win over the Sabres tonight was the first time all month they allowed more than two goals. It was also just about the wackiest goddamn game I’ve seen this season. The Sabres scored 1:41 in. The Bruins scored 1:18 later. Then the Sabres scored again 1:30 after that. Just 29 seconds later, they scored again. Boston answered 30 seconds later at 5:38. At 12:37 Buffalo made it 4-2, but Boston pulled back within one 31 seconds after that. The Sabres had to clear another puck off the line soon after that to hold onto the lead.
But the Bruins grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck in the second period, outshooting Buffalo 12-8 and outscoring them 3-0. This was thanks in large part to Buffalo’s continual parade to the penalty box, which allowed Zdeno Chara to score a couple of booming power play goals wrapped around an even-strength goal from Chuck Kobasew to put the Bruins even, up, and then out of reach. Phil Kessel’s goal early in the third was all Lindy Ruff could stand from Ryan Miller, who left the game having surrendered seven goals on 20 shots (just slightly better than Pascal Leclaire’s gong show performance last night).
And while Manny Fernandez obviously fought the puck a little bit early on, he was solid after the first, though he was only asked to make 15 saves. It was, though, a game as choppy and without flow as a scoreline like that would indicate. Neither team could establish anything through the neutral zone and nor were they especially interested in maintaining offensive zone possession should they actually be lucky enough to gain it.
Chara had two goals, Kobasew had two goals, Tom Vanek had two goals, Dave Krejci scored and added two helpers and Marc Savard quietly had a goal and three assists to boost his total to 7-18-25 in 19 games, which is third-best in the league and Savard is still somehow undiscussed on the national stage.
But what this showed, to me at least, is that the Bruins’ early success is by no means a fluke. They’ve won just about every way you can this month. Big wins against Dallas, Toronto and Montreal in which they won 16-4 on aggregate show they can dominate. The wins of 3-1 over Buffalo and 2-1 over Chicago in a shootout show they can grind it out with highly-skilled teams if need be and still come out victorious. This win tonight shows that they can battle and overcome adversity, even despite shaky play from the backup netminder. The only nagging thing is that one game they blew against the Rangers. But if they can go the rest of the month without dropping a game — and with remaining opponents of Florida, a struggling Montreal, Buffalo again, the Islanders and Red Wings, it’s not entirely impossible — they won’t really be kicking themselves over one loss to the Rangers, to whom they are second in the conference by two points but benefit from three games in hand.
I didn’t really think it was possible, but as of right now, the Bruins are the best team in the East, and thus the one by which all others will be measured. It seems unlikely that anyone can match the varied skillset brought by the Bruins’ group of forwards (maybe Montreal, but they ain’t exactly going 2 for 6 on the powerplay these days). The D corps is clearly untouchable in the conference otherwise bereft of an imposing blue line that’s that deep at Nos. 1 to 6. And the goaltending, between Tim Thomas’ all-out awesomeness and Fernandez’s more-than-capable backup work despite tonight’s iffy performance, is unrivaled, perhaps in whole the league.
No one besides the Sharks are playing on the same level as the Bruins right now, and frankly I don’t think anyone in the East is even capable of it.
Vancouver 6, New York Rangers 3
When Alex Burrows is lighting your No. 1 goalie up, it’s gonna be a long night. That was the case for Henrik Lundqvist, who coughed up five goals, two by Burrows, on 17 shots at Madison Square Garden. Roberto Luongo, on the other hand, made 39 saves to earn the win. That’s how you play, Hank. More like Luongo. Less like Leclaire. Mattias Ohlund, Taylor Pyatt, Jannik Hansen and Burrows had multiple-point nights. Chris Drury had a goal and an assist for the Rangers, who must certainly hear some big bear footsteps behind them and hot bear breath on the backs of their necks.
Washington 6, Anaheim 4
Any good hockey night for me will usually include both a Washington win and an Anaheim loss. How convenient, then, that this game shook out as it did. Alex Ovechkin continued his scorched earth campaign against the defenses of the NHL, scoring a goal and setting up three others to lead the Caps to yet another win despite a lack of Alex Semin. Michael Nylander, David Steckel and Mike Green all had two points, and eight other Caps got on the scoresheet as well. Bobby Ryan powered the Duck attack, scoring his first two goals of the season and assisting on Ryan Getzlaf’s goal. And if you wanna read a great feature on Ovie, look no further than right here. My favorite quote: “Ovechkin’s mad, post-goal rushes into the glass — Lambeau Leaps, with a ricochet — have become his trademark. ‘Just something I like to do,’ he said with a shrug. ‘I love hockey.’” This kid’s nonchalance at being the best player alive is awesome on so many levels.