By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
Three weeks into the month of February and the Boston Bruins have a three-point lead on the Washington Capitals for first place in the MassMutual East Division. The Bruins, most recently, earned a 7-3 blowout win over the Philadelphia Flyers at Lake Tahoe, playing some of their best all-around hockey so far this season.
This has resulted in them having the best odds to win the East Division. They are currently listed as +110 favorites and if they keep it up, they will remain at the top.
While judging the course of the season after only 16 games played is often questioned, in a shortened 56-game season, the Bruins are already past the quarter mark of the 2021 season. With an 11-3-2 record as of February 22nd, the Bruins have 24 points and a .750 points percentage – good enough for a decently comfortable lead for that first-place position.
As mentioned above, the Washington Capitals are the team with the second-most points in the division, trailing the B’s by only three points – however, the Caps have played one more game. Boston has played two games against Washington so far, performing two three-goal comebacks to lose an overtime game and win a regulation game a few days later.
While the Capitals are currently second in points, the Philadelphia Flyers are still second in points percentage – a statistic that is more likely to be used once the season ends as I believe with the piling postponements, there is a chance some teams across the league fall short of the 56-game schedule. The Flyers, while winless against Boston this year, have an 8-4-3 record while dealing with a large list of injuries and COVID-related scratches.
The other Pennsylvania team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, are right there in contention for a playoff spot in the East Division. Boston has beaten the Penguins in both meetings – 3-2 in overtime and 4-1 a few days later. That said, the Penguins have a 9-6-1 record and with Sidney Crosby – cannot be counted out.
One team that has given the Bruins serious problems early on – the New York Islanders. The Isles are responsible for two of the three regulation losses currently on the Bruins’ record and are deadlocked with the Penguins at 19 points. In two games against the Islanders, Boston has only scored a combined two goals – being shutout in their first meeting and falling short 4-2 most recently on February 13th.
The other team to have a regulation win over the Black and Gold in 2021 – the New Jersey Devils surprisingly enough. The Devils have defeated the B’s twice already, once in overtime on opening night and again on February 18th. Boston has not scored more than two goals in a game against New Jersey (not including the three scored in the shootout win).
In terms of the other New York team – the Rangers, the B’s have looked decent, winning both meetings so far – one in overtime and the other coming as a 1-0 shutout. Rangers are below .500 at the moment, but with a few wins strung together, could make a push into the top four.
There is one team, though, that the Boston Bruins have not played against yet – the Buffalo Sabres. Due to postponements as a result of COVID protocols, games between the Bruins and Sabres were delayed to a later date. Buffalo sits in the basement of the East with a 5-7-2 record and the worst goal differential (-8).
The 2021 season has been far from perfect for the Bruins so far. Injuries to key players like Matt Grzelcyk, Ondrej Kase, Jake DeBrusk, and David Krejci (not including the season-starting injury to David Pastrnak), have caused lines to be shuffled around constantly and rookies such as Urho Vaakanainen and Jack Studnicka to fill holes in the roster.
With all that, Boston still holds a significant lead in terms of points percentage over anyone else in the MassMutual East Division and there is an argument that they haven’t even played their best hockey yet. A lot of kinks are left to work out, but through it, all the Bruins are consistently finding ways to grab one – and in most cases – two points on a nightly basis.
Boston has the 7th-best power-play in the league (30%), second-best penalty-kill (87.7%), have the fifth-lowest xGA (23.46), and the 9th-best xGF% (52.26%). Defensively the Bruins are looking solid too – least shots against/60 (24.06), 4th-lowest xGA/60 (1.87) and have the 4th-best overall CF% (54.52) with like I said – injuries constantly breaking up the chemistry.
If things continue to go Boston’s way, don’t be surprised to see them atop the division by the end of the season.