Bruins within reach of NHL records for wins and points. Here's how they can do it
The Bruins will need to be nearly flawless down the stretch to set the NHL record for wins and points in a season.
The Boston Bruins completed the formality of clinching the Presidents’ Trophy last month with an overtime win over the Blue Jackets, and they’ve already made some NHL history and aim to break another record or two before the season wraps.
The 2022-23 Bruins already became the fastest NHL team to 50 wins (in 64 games) and 100 points (in 61 contests). The Bruins are now up to 61 wins and 127 points after an overtime victory over Toronto on Thursday and are still in reach of setting new NHL regular-season records for wins and points.
Let’s consider their chances and how the 2022-23 Bruins stack up against the greatest NHL teams of all-time.
Most wins in a single NHL season (62)
With 61 wins, the Bruins need to win one of their last four games to reach 62 victories, which would tie them with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings and 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning. They’d stand alone if they reached 63-plus victories by winning at least two of those contests.
Most points in a single NHL season (132)
Since we last checked in on the Bruins’ historic regular season, the team slowed down ever so slightly — but really only by their outrageous standards. This relative slippage didn't derail their dreams of tying or breaking the wins record, as they have won three straight and 11 of their last 12.
With 127 points in 78 games played, the Bruins are on pace to top the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens’ record of 132 points. It should be mentioned, however, the Canadiens accomplished that in only 80 games and without the benefit of shootouts, from which the Bruins have compiled four wins and 11 points this season.
It still won't be easy, as the Bruins require six of a possible eight points from their remaining four games. Here's are the scenarios in which the Bruins could get it done:
Here are the scenarios that would allow the Bruins to pick up the five points required to match the single-season record of 132:
The stage could be set for a dramatic finale to the regular season when the Bruins take on the Canadiens in Montreal on April 13.
Bruins schedule: final five games
While back-to-back sets aren’t ideal, the overall outlook of Boston’s schedule is pretty conducive to a strong finish. Getting seven to tie at 132 points would be tough and expecting a record-breaking eight out of 10 remaining points would be asking a lot, even for this team.
April 6: vs. Maple Leafs
April 8: vs. Devils
April 9: @ Flyers
April 11: vs. Capitals
April 13: @ Canadiens
How are the 2022-23 Bruins so dominant?
As of Tuesday, the Bruins ranked among the very best in just about every stats category:
GF/GP: 2nd (3.66)
GA/GP: 1st, by far (2.12)
PP%: 12th (22.3%)
PK%: 1st (86.9%)
The Bruins feature a goal differential of plus-120, comfortably ahead of the 2005-06 Ottawa Senators’ mark of plus-107 for the highest mark of the salary cap era. Despite playing during a time when scoring is soaring upward, the Bruins rank seventh in the salary cap era in fewest goals allowed.
As strong and deep as the Bruins’ defense is, Boston’s found another level of stinginess thanks to the incredible ascent of likely Vezina-winner Linus Ullmark. Hockey Viz captures the impact of Boston’s supreme goaltending.
Of course, the Bruins create a nurturing biosphere for goalies such as Ullmark, including running the best penalty kill in the NHL.
Almost-gaudy depth is part of what makes the Bruins so imposing, especially after Dmitry Orlov and Tyler Bertuzzi were added to this team’s embarrassment of riches at the NHL trade deadline. Reaching back further, convincing David Krejci to return tied the room together like a Lebowski rug, and Hampus Lindholm flourished to a degree that he might snatch a few of Charlie McAvoy’s Norris Trophy votes.
Impressively, the Bruins boast all of those strengths, yet they still can hang with any other team from a “best-on-best” standpoint.
In the case of the 2022-23 season, the Bruins combined the usual brilliance of veterans Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron with David Pastrnak going supernova. With 56 goals, Pastrnak looks primed to finish second behind Connor McDavid in the Rocket Richard Trophy “race,” and the Dunkins-endorsing winger already set a new career-best with 98 points.
With a hard salary cap, teams almost always need to hide a flaw or two. Is that really the case with the 2022-23 Bruins, though?
Sealing the deal is no guarantee
All of that said, it’s worth noting that the two teams tied for the all-time wins record (1995-96 Red Wings and 2018-19 Lightning) both failed to win the Stanley Cup after their historic regular seasons.
Tampa Bay was on the receiving end of one of the biggest upsets in NHL history after getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round. Detroit fared better but was knocked off by the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference final.
Future championships soothed those wounds, but they do serve as warnings for dominant teams like the 2022-23 Bruins. Honestly, considering the NHL’s penchant for playoff upsets, they should already know not to count chickens before they hatch into Stanley Cup rings.
Even if a first-round upset doesn’t happen, the Bruins are primed to face the Lightning or Toronto Maple Leafs in Round 2, and may face a dangerous opponent like the Carolina Hurricanes or New Jersey Devils in a potential conference final matchup. In other words, a historically great Bruins team will need to overcome some genuine obstacles.
the hurricanes are okay defensively pic.twitter.com/YOiN5D1Cjk
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) March 27, 2023
Don’t get it twisted, the Bruins are about as strong a favorite as you’ll see in the modern, parity-packed NHL. It’s just wise to consider the limitations of a sport prone to randomness.
How do Bruins compare to some of the best teams in NHL history?
Ultimately, we don’t know if these Bruins will win the Stanley Cup. But let’s quickly compare them to some of the best teams in NHL history:
1970s Canadiens: The 1976-77 team generated the best-ever record at 60-8-12 for 132 points in 80 games (.825) with a plus-216 goal differential.
With ties instead of shootouts and two fewer games, the 1976-77 Canadiens should probably be considered ahead of these Bruins even if Boston sets a new points record. That would be especially true if Boston can’t win a Stanley Cup, as Montreal’s record season was part of a “four-peat” of championship wins.
Of course, the NHL was a wildly different league back then in a wide variety of ways, so plenty of people would understandably argue that these modern Bruins are pulling off something more impressive. Without using time travel in a very trivial way, we’re reduced to debates that are either fun, frustrating or both.
Bobby Orr era Bruins: The 1971-72 Bruins generated 119 points in 78 games (.763) with a plus-126 goal differential.
When Orr was healthy, the Bruins won two Stanley Cups in three seasons and put together a run of dominance that may outshine these Bruins. The 2022-23 Bruins already have more wins (57 to 54) and the same standings points (119). If you prefer the 1970-71 Bruins (57-14-7, 121 points, .776 points percentage), this year’s squad is likely to finish comfortably ahead of that iteration, too.
1980s Islanders: The 1981-82 Isles went 54-16-10 for 118 points in 80 games (.738) with a plus-135 goal differential.
No team has won three straight Stanley Cups since the dynastic Islanders rattled off four in a row from 1980-83. Perhaps historians may wrestle with comparing one single transcendent Bruins team with the dynasty Islanders, and also the team that wrestled the torch away from Long Island.
1980s Oilers: The 1983-84 version reached 119 points (.744) with a plus-132 goal differential, and unlike in 1985-86, won a Stanley Cup.
By winning four Stanley Cups with Wayne Gretzky and one without him, the Oilers join the Islanders as teams whose overall dominance is undeniable. The “greatest player of all time” thing may nudge bar debates toward Edmonton over Boston even if the B’s end up with far more regular-season points.
Yzerman-Lidstrom era Red Wings: They had the best season to never win a Stanley Cup in 1995-96, recording the second most regular-season points with 131. They had 116 points and 115 points, respectively, during their 2002 and 2008 championship seasons.
Runs like those of the Red Wings likely formed ideas about a Presidents' Trophy “curse,” as they failed to win the Cup four times during that era when they led the NHL in points. So, if the Bruins can finish strong and win a Stanley Cup, there could be an argument that this year's team had a higher peak than any of those Red Wings teams.
Modern Tampa Bay Lightning: That 2018-19 squad got swept after posting a 62-16-4 record for 128 points in 82 games played (.781 points percentage, plus-103 goal differential).
After that shocking sweep, the Lightning won two Stanley Cups in a row, and made the final round for three consecutive years (with a chance to make it four). While Tampa Bay’s been a strong team in the regular season since that sweep, they haven’t even won a division title since then.
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Where will the 2022-23 Bruins rank among those great teams? Reaching 62-plus wins and 132-plus points would elevate them in discussions, but plenty of debates could get derailed if the 2022-23 Bruins fail to win a Stanley Cup.
Either way, they’ve already carved a spot out in NHL history, whether their names end up etched on the most famous trophy in sports or not.