Things are currently going so well for the Bruins that when winger Milan Lucic joked in the dressing room about “peaking too early,” after Saturday's 5-1 beatdown of the Hurricanes at TD Garden, many media members thought he was being completely serious. It has reached that point where it is hard to find many holes in Boston's game (45-17-5) as it has rattled off eight wins in a row (best stretch since Nov. 1-23, 2011) to go three points ahead of Pittsburgh for first place in the Eastern Conference.
“We’ve gotten better since the beginning of February,” said Lucic. “We’re doing a good job of turning pucks over and not getting too high or low emotionally. Everything is clicking for our line right now.”
The Bruins’ top line of Lucic (1 goal, 2 assists), David Krejci (3 assists) and Jarome Iginla (2 goals) continued to lead the way as they’ve produced 47 points in their last 14 games. As Iginla pointed out though, this has been a team effort as guys like backup goaltender Chad Johnson (29 saves) have stepped up. He won Saturday to improve to 14-3-1 on the season and extend his career-best point streak to nine games (8-0-1).
“It’s all about winning,” said Johnson. “I love playing in front of the fans here. They give us energy and I’m excited to be on this side of it.”
Boston survived a major injury scare in the third period when defenseman Johnny Boychuk lost his footing and crashed awkwardly into the boards. He stayed down for a while then needed help getting off but there he was just a few shifts later back on the ice. His luck didn’t turn around though as a shot hit his foot seconds later. Head coach Claude Julien said that he’d be ok but they would evaluate him tomorrow to be safe.
One of the keys to the win streak has been the Bruins’ ability to score first and subsequently grab two-goal leads. They are 35-3-0 this season when they are up by two or more including 24-2-0 when it is 2-0. Lucic scored late in the first period on an assist that Krejci managed to get off while he was tripped by Eric Staal. Then Iginla doubled the lead late in the second period after a feed from Lucic who was stationed behind Carolina’s (29-29-9) net.
Alexander Semin seemed to give the Hurricanes some life when his shot deflected in off Boychuk’s stick but Boston proceeded to score twice-by Chris Kelly and Iginla-in the span of 13 seconds (their fastest pair since Nov. 5, 2011). Torey Krug added a goal in garbage time for the 5-1 final margin. The Bruins will celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Monday (7:30, NBCSN) by hosting the Wild (35-22-9).
What they'll be saying: With 95 points and 15 more games left, 100 points seems inevitable and it could happen as soon as next weekend in Colorado or Phoenix. The Bruins appear like they’ll pass 2010-11 (103 points) and 2011-12 (102 points) with ease. 2008-09 when they put up 116 points is also in play. Let’s keep in mind that season they lost in the second round of the playoffs to Carolina which is why few probably remember how great the regular season was. Boston is gunning for its fourth division crown in six years, in their first run through the Atlantic.
Shawn Thornton and Jordan Caron were the healthy scratches along with Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter. Daniel Paille returned after missing two games with a mild concussion and Matthew Lindblad made his NHL debut. The Dartmouth College product skated a team-low 8:25 on the fourth line with Paille and Gregory Campbell, his only stat was one faceoff win.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate