At the beginning of November, the Bruins (13-8-1) were a mess as they lost their first three games on the month. Since then, they’ve gone 7-2 including wins in their last five games. Suddenly, Boston is one of the hottest teams in the league and it has climbed into the Eastern Conference playoff picture (currently seventh place) a little over a quarter through the 2015-16 regular season.
Most NHL observers use Thanksgiving as the first real marker of the schedule, meaning that if you are in the top-eight at that point, you should have a good chance to make the playoffs. After all, it’s always tougher to make up ground after New Year’s.
For many reasons, last Friday’s 4-3 comeback victory over the Rangers (16-6-2) at TD Garden was the most impressive win thus far for the B’s. New York is not only one of the top teams in the East, but also the entire NHL. Plus, Boston rallied from two different deficits (2-1 and 3-2) and scored twice in the final four minutes on New York goaltender Henrik Lundqvist - who is still one of the best in the world.
Bruins head coach Claude Julien is starting to see his team’s identity being formed and he likes it.
“We are a hardworking team with a good mixture of veterans and new faces,” noted Julien. “I liked our game, it makes it fun for a coach. We are headed in the right direction.”
Boston’s home record is still under .500 (5-6-1) but it remains one of the top road clubs in the NHL (8-2-0). After a busy stretch with four games last week, the B’s can ease into December as their next game isn’t until Wednesday (9:30 p.m., NESN) at Edmonton (8-14-2). The Bruins have three games in four nights in Western Canada but it shouldn’t be as daunting as it sounds since they are at Calgary (8-14-2) on Friday (9, NESN) and Vancouver (9-8-7) on Saturday (10, NESN). Currently, none of those teams are in the Western Conference playoff picture.
“It’ll be good to rest a little bit,” admitted winger Brett Connolly, who scored one of Boston’s two power play goals against New York. “We scored some big goals and made the right plays at the right time … We need to build on this because it’s a big road trip coming up.”
The Bruins have 14 games in December, eight at the Garden and six on the road. And don’t forget that the Winter Classic is getting closer - New Year’s Day (1, NBC) at Gillette Stadium vs. Montreal (18-4-3).