The Boston Bruins made NHL history in back-to-back games this week. They won their record-setting 63rd game of the season. The previous mark was held by the 1995 to 1996 Detroit Red Wings and the 2018 to 2019 Tampa Bay Lightning. Neither of those teams made it to the Stanley Cup Finals, so hopefully for the Bruins, they can avoid their same fate. The next game they played, the team broke another major record in getting their 133rd point. This surpassed the 1976 to 1977 Montreal Canadiens with 132 points. By all measures the 2022 to 2023 Boston Bruins have been the best regular season team of all time in the NHL with a final record of 63-12-5.
The Boston Bruins have consistently been among the top contenders of the NHL with making the playoffs in 13 of the last 15 seasons, in addition to three Stanley Cup Finals appearances and one win in 2011. As good as their recent history has been, nobody could have ever possibly predicted that they would have this exceptional season after the public perception of the trajectory of the franchise just a year ago. The team had lost in the first round to the Carolina Hurricanes and subsequently fired their coach Bruce Cassidy and re-signed general manager Don Sweeney to a multi-year extension, moves that did not have the support of the majority of fans and local media.
Cassidy was replaced by former Dallas Stars head coach and former University of Maine player Jim Montgomery. Along with a new voice on the bench, the team also made slight moves that have paid off immensely with trading for center Pavel Zacha from New Jersey for Erik Haula, as well as bringing back old friend David Krejci out of retirement to play another season.
It was also unclear coming into the season if Patrice Bergeron would be returning because the 37-year-old captain did not sign a one-year contract extension until August. So if somebody had said that they knew a team who was in the middle of the pack team a season ago who made no moves besides resigning two centers in their late 30s and one that had never scored more than 40 points before, a team that just fired their coach, an aging team that would not have two of its best players to start the season (Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy), if a person had said that team would be the best regular team in NHL history, then that person would have been lying.
There are multiple reasons why the Bruins have had such a successful season. One of them has been the play out of the goaltender position. Linus Ullmark has had the best season out of any goalie this year. He is a lock for the Vezina Trophy after getting the Triple Crown by leading the league in wins, goals-against average, and save percentage (40/1.89/.938). His backup and fellow UMaine Black Bear Jeremy Swayman has also had a stellar year, being in the top five in save percentage and goals against. Another massive reason has been the depth scoring.
Last year the Bruins heavily relied on their top two lines for scoring and they got exposed when they were shut down or having an off night. This year the third and fourth lines have improved dramatically. Last year the team only had five players with 45 or more points, compared to this year where they have nine. The leader of this group is David Pasternak who is having an all-time year where he finished with 61 goals and 52 assists. The only player in Bruins history who has had more goals in a single season is Phil Esposito who has crossed the 60-goal mark four times.
Bringing in Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway from Washington and Tyler Bertuzzi from Detroit while giving up a slew of draft picks and sending Craig Smith to D.C. at the trade deadline and all have contributed in a big way. The Bruins’ first-round matchup will be against the eighth-seeded Florida Panthers. For their season to be considered a success, they must win a championship. The path there will be challenging but it is doable. This will be an exciting two-month stretch to see if the black and gold will live up to the hype or come up short against the pressure.