A series of event that led to 100 points
With the Bruins 7-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres Thursday night, the Bruins became the fastest team in NHL history to reach 100 points, passing the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens who hit 100 points after 62 games.
The Bruins did it in 61.
"We try to stay in the moment, and we've been doing that. We started off 11-1, and I was like, 'Man, that's unreal,' and then you catch yourself and you go back into the moment, and we've probably gone 11-1 every 12 games to have the record we have,” head coach Jim Montgomery said.
“It's been really amazing to watch them want to be great, because with the schedule and everything, it's really impressive."
A lot needs to perfectly come together for a team to be as successful as the Bruins have.
Coming off their series loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, changes had to be made and they were.
Let’s take a look at several events that have led to the Bruins historic season.
Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are not fired
After another disappointing ending to the Bruins season, many (myself included) called for the firing of general manager Don Sweeney and/or team president Cam Neely.
Despite much regular season success together as a pair, and to be fair, playoff success, it truly felt like Sweeney and Neely had lost their grip on the organization and were no longer the right combination of management to help build a roster that could win a Stanley Cup.
Although Sweeney had hit on trades like Charlie Coyle, Taylor Hall (and now we see Hampus Lindholm), the Bruins failures in previous seasons will forever be linked to his misses in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and signings that flopped like David Backes.
Although given a new contract extension, it really felt that coming into the 2022-23 season, Sweeney really needed to step up and build a much better roster than in previous season, ultimately bringing more success to Boston.
Little did anyone know at the time that the Bruins would end up the Stanley Cup favorites.
Bruce Cassidy is fired, Jim Montgomery hired
I was not a fan of firing Cassidy at the time, believing that in keeping Sweeney and Neely, but firing Cassidy, the organization was allowing Cassidy to fall on the sword that was the failures of Bruins management.
However, weeks into the 2022-23 season it was clear that the Bruins really did just need a new voice leading the way in the locker room.
Going back to his days behind the bench at Denver, I’ve always been a fan of Jim Montgomery. Once he got behind an NHL bench, he made an immediate impact on the Dallas Stars and in all honesty, had his personal matters not gotten in the way, he’d probably still be in Dallas today, potentially with a Stanley Cup under his belt.
Montgomery came to Boston with a track record of being the perfect coach for younger players, something the Bruins wanted to help develop younger players like Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka, two once promising prospects that had hit a wall at the NHL level.
Studnicka has since been traded to Vancouver—where he’s struggled—however, Frederic has been an important piece to the Bruins offensive depth, playing an important role in the Bruins bottom-six.
Bruins trade for Pavel Zacha
The Bruins entered the off-season with many questions and two big holes down the middle. As an unrestricted free agent Patrice Bergeron was contemplating retirement, leaving the Bruins with minimal options to center the Bruins top-two lines.
On July 13 Sweeney sent center Erik Haula to New Jersey for Pavel Zacha who at the time had one-year remaining on his contract.
A low-risk, high-reward type of move, Zacha has been an outstanding addition to the Bruins depth, giving them a forward who can play up and down the lineup, both on the wing and down the middle.
Zacha has built great chemistry with countrymates David Krejci and David Pastrnak, (more on them below) while giving the Bruins a dangerous second line.
After a successful start to his tenure with the Bruins, Zacha was rewarded with a four-year contract on Jan. 14.
Bergeron and Krejci return
Nearly a month after the trade for Zacha, the Bruins filled their holes at center by announcing one-year contracts with both Bergeron and Krejci.
The returns of Bergeron and Krejci took a huge weight off the backs of Bruins management, securing two big needs with one swing of the bat. The returns of the duo proved to be the glue that has stuck the Bruins offensive depth together, making them arguably the deepest in the league.
The idea of Bergeron and Krejci returning appears as if the band is back together for one “last ride,” but both Bergeron and Krejci are performing at a high level and it wouldn’t surprise me it either or both are back next season.
Bruins survive off-season injuries
When the Bruins dropped the puck on their 2022-23 season in Washington back in October, they did so without Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy as both were still recovering from off-season surgery.
Both were expected to be out until sometime around US Thanksgiving.
The hope was that until Marchand and McAvoy could return, the Bruins would stay afloat in a competitive Atlantic division, keeping them in the thick of things until the roster was fully healthy.
What the Bruins did out of the gate, no one saw coming.
Marchand returned on Oct. 27, the Bruins 6-1-0 at that point, a league best 12 points.
McAvoy returned shortly after Marchand did, back in the lineup for the Bruins Nov. 10 win over the Calgary Flames. The Bruins 11-2-0 at that point, two points back of Cassidy’s Vegas Golden Knights for the most points in the NHL.
David Pastrnak: A man on fire
One of the biggest reasons behind the Bruins successful season has been the play of David Pastrnak. His 43 goals in 61 games has him on pace for a career year, surpassing the 48 goals he scored in 2019-20.
With 43 goals, Pastrnak only trails Connor McDavid in goals, McDavid has 52.
Pastrnak appears to be as healthy as he’s ever been and it shows as we’ve seen a side of Pasta that we haven’t seen before, on pace for 58 goals and 112 points. The talented winger has never hit the 100-point mark, coming close in 2019-20 with 95 points. Pastrnak also missed 12 games that season.
I don’t have to go into too much detail on what Pastrnak can do and how important he is to the Bruins offense.
But his career year has come at the perfect time for the Bruins.
Goaltending duo shines bright
The Bruins came into the season without a true starting goalie. With how hot Linus Ullmark started the season and has remained hot since, that quickly changed.
Ullmark is a lock for the Vezina trophy and certainly will steal some MVP votes away from skaters like McDavid.
Ullmark leads the NHL in wins, (31) save percentage, (.938) and goals-against average (1.88).
Oh and how could I forget, Ullmark also has a goal this season.
What can he not do?
Ullmark’s career-best 54 saves in Tuesday’s ugly 4-3 overtime win over Calgary was the perfect example of how important Ullmark has been to the Bruins run.
When Ullmark needs a rest, the Bruins have been able to turn to Jeremy Swayman and not miss a beat. Swayman started the season slow, culminating in a loss to the Buffalo Sabres on New Year’s Eve where he allowed four goals on 25 shots, arguably his worst performance of the season.
Since then, Swayman has been just as good as Ullmark. Since the calendar flipped to 2023, Swayman has gone 9-1-1 with a 1.82 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage.
In that span, of goalies with 10 or more appearances only Ullmark and Filip Gustavsson have a better save percentage, Gustavsson a better goals-against average.
Wait, there's more
Jake DeBrusk rounding back into a top-six forward has been massive. Nick Foligno finding his game again and being a staple in the Bruins bottom-six has been welcomed.
Getting to see more of Hampus Lindholm has shown how much of a stud he is, finally giving the Bruins two top-tiered top-four defenseman, adding to what McAvoy already brings to the table.
And, in a brief sample size, the Bruins trade for Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway have already paid off, Orlov with three goals and five assists through four games with the Bruins.
A lot of hockey remains, hockey which the Bruins hope to be playing well into June.