The Boston Bruins have tied the NHL wins record. Here’s how they did it

The big, bad Boston Bruins are good — historically, record-breakingly good.

They have a better regular-season record than those Wayne Gretzky Oilers teams in the ’80s. Better than the 2000s Detroit Red Wings team with 10 future Hall of Famers. Better than Bobby Orr’s early-’70s Bruins. 

With their 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils Saturday, the Bruins have 62 wins — tying the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning and the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings — and they still have three games left to claim the record as their own.

It’s a stunning success story for a team that most prognosticators expected to either barely make the playoffs this year, or to miss them altogether.

Here’s a look at the stats showing just how good they’ve been and what it means for their Stanley Cup chances. (Spoiler alert: probably nothing.)

How the B’s compare to other teams this year

The Bruins have been so dominant this year, you can pick almost any stat and they’ll be at or near the top of the league. Let’s start with the obvious one: they have 129 points in the standings. The closest team, the Carolina Hurricanes, have 109.

Put another way, the gap between the Bruins and the Hurricanes is roughly as large as the gap between No. 2 and the No. 18 Calgary Flames, who are currently outside the playoffs in the Western Conference.

The Bruins lead the league in goals against, home record, away record and have the best penalty kill. They have six winning streaks of five games or more and have only once lost two regulation-time games in a row.

And when you break down the numbers further, their dominance this season only becomes clearer:

  • When the Bruins score the first goal, they are almost guaranteed to win, with a 41-1-3 record.

  • Their goal differential — how many more goals they score than give up — is plus-122, double the next-best team (the Edmonton Oilers at plus-61). The Bruins are plus-50 in the third period alone.

Bruins’ starting goalie is also breaking records

How are the Bruins dominating like this?

Though they have Hall of Fame sure-thing Patrice Bergeron and 57-goal scorer David Pastrňák, the Bruins are less a team of superstars and more a team of remarkable depth.

They arguably have three No. 1 defencemen and two “top” lines, and they have 11 players with at least 10 goals.

Almost every skater has at least met expectations, but to find the player who has most exceeded them, you have to turn to starting goaltender Linus Ullmark.

This season, Ullmark has:

  • A 39-6-1 record, among the best win-loss records by a goaltender with at least 40 games played in the postwar era.
  • A .938 save percentage, tied for fourth best all-time.
  • A 54-save performance against the Calgary Flames. It was a Bruins record, and they won the game.
  • A goal against the Vancouver Canucks. Ullmark is the first goalie to score in Bruins history, and only the eighth NHL goalie ever to do so on a deliberate shot. 

How other great regular-season teams have fared in the Stanley Cup playoffs

So with this Boston Bruins team dominant from start to finish, a trip to the Stanley Cup final is basically a done deal, right?

About that: In the post-war era, being one of the best NHL teams ever in the regular season has historically had almost no bearing on a team’s Stanley Cup chances. Except for one: You will go on to win the Stanley Cup if you are a Montreal Canadiens team from the late 1970s. 

Two hockey players in white jerseys with black and gold spoked Bs on them raise their arms in celebration. In the background a goaltender in a dark uniform is on his knees. Part of the crowd is visible beyond the rink.
Defenceman Charlie McAvoy, right, and forward Brad Marchand celebrate after McAvoy scored the game-winning goal against the Calgary Flames in Calgary in February. The Bruins arguably have three No. 1 defencemen and two top lines. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

The most recent team that was this dominant, the 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning, didn’t even win a game in the 2019 playoffs, and were swept in the first round (although they have been to three straight Stanley Cup finals since then).

Putting aside historic dominance, there hasn’t even been a first-place team that’s won the Cup since 2013.

The Bruins spent most of the season saying they hadn’t thought about any regular season records at all. But now that they are on the verge of the record, they aren’t afraid to say they’re going for it.

“I think it’s an incredible accomplishment,” forward Taylor Hall said after the game. “And it’s OK to say that.”

Coach Jim Montgomery said that trying to win their remaining games can help them stay sharp for what they hope will be a long post-season run.

“Anytime you’re talking about putting your team’s name — and putting our ‘Spoked B’ — in the history books of the most wins ever in a regular season, it’s special,” he said. “Our regular season has been great, but we need to win our last [playoff] game of the season. And that’s what we’re building towards.”

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