( Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images )

By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @nathandrsn

With All-Star weekend now behind us, it is time to look ahead to the “second half” of the season. The first half of the season for the Bruins was record-setting. At times they seemed unbeatable, and it looked as though no team could take four out of seven games from them in the playoffs.

With the break, however, the age-old debate shows its head again. Is it better for a team on a hot streak to rest and recuperate? On the other hand, does a break kill the momentum and interrupt a winning streak? Over the years, we have seen both be true across sports. Typically the debate is had during the playoffs if one team has a longer layoff between series. Because of how great the Bruins were in the first half of the season, though, it seems relevant now as well.

Ironically, even though the Bruins had a historic first half, the break may have come at the perfect time for them. Going into the weekend, the Bruins had lost three of their last four games. It was the first sign of weakness from the team this season, and perhaps the break was just what they needed to reset and get their heads focused on the task at hand for the rest of the season.

Once play resumes, the Bruins will have 31 games to play in the regular season. They currently sit atop the NHL standings with 83 points from 39 wins and five overtime losses. Of course, I will not be expecting them to keep up the absurd pace they were able to set during the first half, but I also was expecting them to plateau at some point this season, and so far, they have not unless you count the small three-game skid against some of the best teams in hockey.

While their first-half play may not entirely transfer to the rest of the season, fans should not expect a considerable drop-off either. The top of the lineup is loaded with elite, world-class players like captain Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Taylor Hall. They also have two of the best defensemen in the world, Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm.

For my money, they have the best goaltending tandem in the league. Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman are good enough to be good starters on almost any team in the league. In a hypothetical world in which the Bruins are not lucky enough to have both of them, it is not unreasonable to say that they could both be all-stars. Ullmark has been easily the best goaltender in the world over the first half of the season, and with a solid defensive team in front of him, he has been nearly unbeatable.

Despite this team’s talent, I believe there is another, more crucial reason the Bruins have had so much success and will likely continue to win. At the center of Jim Montgomery’s coaching philosophy is a tenacious, hardworking style in which the goal is to outnumber the puck and get it back within five seconds after losing it. This puts immense pressure on other teams to make plays quickly and decisively for the entire game and causes mistakes that the Bruins’ top talent can then punish.

This style should continue producing results because it is so basic. Other teams in the past have ridden a hot goalie or prolific scorers to great regular seasons, but if those amenities dry up in the first round, those teams are in trouble. Look no further than the 2019 Tampa Bay Lightning, with a Vezina trophy-winning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy struggled in the first round of the playoffs against the Blue Jackets, and the Lightning found themselves enjoying the Florida weather on the golf course rather than the ice after just four games.

The second half of the season will be exciting for the Bruins as they try to chase down the NHL’s all-time points and win records. But, more importantly, they will have a chance to prove that their first-half tear was not just an extended hot streak. The tenacious, gritty style of play they showed should help the Bruins continue to play excellent hockey for the next 31 games, and hopefully, we can see them dominate the playoffs the same way.