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Making Strides

Posted By Matt Preston On Nov 8 2011 @ 8:35 pm In Boston Bruins | 3 Comments

It is as though a disappointing October is but a distant memory as the Boston Bruins have taken lengthy strides towards returning to prominence in the early days of November.

Though they still find themselves near the bottom of the standings, breaking their tie with the New York Islanders for last place in the Eastern Conference by virtue of their 6-2 victory over New York last night, the Bruins are 3-0 in November, their first multi-game winning streak of any kind this season. The team still ranks last in their division, seven points behind the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs, so it is hard to say the Bruins have completely righted the ship, given their small sample size of success, but strides have been taken over this three game-winning streak and Boston is now capitalizing on the one thing they were not doing while they struggled throughout October.

They are capitalizing.

While their play on the whole has not been drastically better of late – there were even stretches in their lopsided victory over the Islanders that the Isles kept things close and even threatened – the Bruins have finally regained the scoring touch that eluded them the first month of the season. The Bruins have outscored their opponents by a margin of 18-5 over this three game stretch, as opposed to the 22-25 margin in their 10 October games. It was never their play that was hurting them. It was always their lack of scoring holding the Bruins back and the Bruins are finally capitalizing on their opportunities.

Point-and-case: The Bruins ranked in the top five in the NHL in shots per game in October at 34 shots per game, while they ranked in the bottom five in scoring at just over two goals a game. Over these past three games, the Bruins have averaged fewer shots (32.67), but have scored almost three times as many goals per game and have moved all the way up to eighth in the NHL in that category at 3.00 goals per game.

And it is not just the amount of goals that has led to the Bruins improved winning percentage, but also how the manner in which they are scoring of late can be demoralizing to their opponents. In their last two games, the Bruins have scored a pair of goals within a minute of each other five different times in wins over the Maple Leafs and Islanders (10 of their 13 goals in those games). The Bruins are now not just capitalizing on their chances, but they are also capitalizing when they have momentum on their side, not just looking to score, but to take their opponent mentally out of the game.

Since head coach Claude Julien’s last shuffling of his lines, reuniting the Nathan Horton-David Krejci-Milan Lucic unit, while adding Tyler Seguin alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the Boston offense has begun to click, with these two grouping accounting for 13 of the Bruins last 18 goals. Boston will need to keep up this level of play to complete their return to the top. Their game last night against the Islanders was the onset of a five game home stand that will see the Bruins playing some of the weaker competition in the NHL, as well as a divisional game against the Buffalo Sabres, whom the Bruins have yet to face this year. A strong showing over the next four games and the Bruins may do more than get out of the Eastern Conference cellar as they did last night, with just three points separating the Black-and-Gold from the eighth place Florida Panthers.

The Bruins still have a ways to go and the sample size that says they are in trouble is three times bigger than the one that says they are back to being a strong contender. The season, however, is still young. The playoffs are still a long ways away and the Bruins still have a long road to recovering from their slow start, but Boston is finally doing what they need to do to win games and are making strides.

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