When hockey fans wake up on Thursday morning, they won?t see the New York Rangers atop the Eastern Conference standings. The team with the most points in the East also won?t be the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Philadelphia Flyers. As a matter of fact, two of those three teams wouldn?t even qualify for the playoffs if they started today.
No, the team that?s currently in the No. 1 spot is the Boston Bruins, who have been flying completely under everyone?s radar in the early part of the season. The truth is that three points separate first to sixth in the East, so it?s nothing to get too excited about just yet, but as we approach the quarter point of the season, you?d be hard-pressed to find someone in the national media giving them credit.
A number of blogs and hockey websites are already estimating the end-of-the-year awards but few Bruins members are being mentioned.
Prognostications for the Jack Adams Award, handed to the Coach of the Year, include names like Michel Therrien of the Montreal Canadiens and Bruce Boudreau of the Anaheim Ducks. It?s worth noting that Claude Julien?s Bruins beat the Canadiens in Montreal on Wednesday night and have the same 7-1-1 record as the Ducks.
As for the Vezina Trophy, given to the top goaltender in the NHL, Ottawa Senators goaltender Craig Anderson and Chicago Blackhawks netminder Corey Crawford are considered the frontrunners. However, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask should be in the conversation too, as he?s allowed just 16 goals in eight games with six of them coming in one rough start. That means he?s allowed just 10 goals in his other seven games, which is good for a sparkling 1.43 average per game.
The reason why the Bruins — and their key contributors — are flying under the radar is because they are playing as one cohesive team without any real standouts. They don?t have a Sidney Crosby to compete for a Maurice Richard Trophy, but what they do have is a roster where 13 different players have notched at least one goal. They might not have a Norris Trophy frontrunner this year on defense but they do get the job done by committee — along with a signature effort from Zdeno Chara. They aren?t a flashy team but they?re effective.
So while the Rangers and Flyers take the headlines for their inconsistent performances and the Tampa Bay Lightning grab attention for their surprising start, the Bruins are happy to stay out of the spotlight. The Bruins have more points than the Penguins, yet it?s the Pens who are still favored to win the East.
Being overlooked has its perks. It will help keep the pressure off and the Bruins certainly don?t mind. It led to a Stanley Cup once and it could once more if they continue to play this well.