Sidney Crosby has been on lots of good teams.
He’s played against plenty of them, too.
The current iteration of the Boston Bruins — the 2022-23 edition that’s separated itself from the pack in an NHL where parity reigns — is right up there.
“Amazing,” said Crosby, a three-time Stanley Cup winner as captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins. “To see the league as tight as it is, and then to see them doing what they’re doing, it’s even more impressive.”
The Bruins top the overall standings with an impressive 40-8-5 record — good for a 62-win, 132-point pace — and with Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime triumph in Dallas, tied the NHL record for the fewest games needed (53) to reach 40 victories in a season, matching the 2015-16 Washington Capitals.
Numbers like that mean the Eastern Conference powerhouse is flirting with history on an even bigger scale.
The 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens finished with an NHL-record 132 points at the conclusion on that 80-game season, while the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings grabbed 131 — and set the bar with 62 victories — from their 82 contests almost two decades later.
The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning, a comparable to Boston in the salary cap era, had 128 points and 62 wins.
“Depth at every position,” Crosby continued of the Bruins. “Different guys stepping up, and their core and leadership that they have, goes a long way.”
That core — led by captain Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand — sets a tone that trickles down.
“Veteran guys that know how to do it … it’s just that simple,” said Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour, whose team split two recent playoff series with the Bruins. “Everybody else is just, ‘OK this is how we do things.’ It’s no secret to me why they’re having success.”
First-year Boston bench boss Jim Montgomery, who had big shoes to fill after Bruce Cassidy’s surprise firing last spring, has been impressed with the roster’s unselfishness.
“A special group of people that want to be great,” he said.
Bruins winger David Pastrnak said the club’s blistering start minus Marchand and No. 1 defenceman Charlie McAvoy due to injury laid the foundation.
“Younger guys getting more opportunities,” the sniper explained. “Then you get the star players back and you just keep winning.
“Funny sometimes what confidence can do.”
Boston’s opponents aren’t laughing.
Buffalo Sabres defenceman Rasmus Dahlin described it as “mentally frustrating” facing a juggernaut that doesn’t seem to make mistakes.
“They take advantage of every single chance,” he said. “They want to play a 1-0 game. If you break down for five (minutes) they’re going to score.
“They have it all — they have the mental side, the defence, the offence.”
And the goaltending.
While the Bruins sit second in the NHL with an average of 3.66 goals scored per game, the 2.11 they surrender — Boston’s 112 allowed were 27 fewer than the second-place New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers heading into Wednesday — is what truly stands out at a time when no NHL lead appears safe and skill in attack has never been greater.
Linus Ullmark leads the league with a 27-4-1 record and a .937 save percentage, and is the only netminder with a sub-2.00 goals-against average (1.90).
“Been standing on his head,” Pastrnak said. “Special year.”
Montgomery credits a chunk of that success to the unique relationship Ullmark has with fellow netminder Jeremy Swayman — one that exemplifies the supportive nature inside the locker room.
“Bruins culture,” Montgomery said. “Everybody’s hoping the other one has success.”
Cassidy, who landed on his feet with the Vegas Golden Knights after six seasons and one Cup final appearance coaching Boston, said the drive of his former team’s best players fuels the group.
“We talked about a standard there for years — playing to our standard no matter who we played,” Cassidy said. “If you can get internal competition in your group, no matter what team you’re on, that’s when you’re probably going to see your team pop.”
It’s a standard the rest of the league’s chasing.
“Monty has done a nice job letting them play,” Brind’Amour said. “Sometimes that’s all it takes to get you that much better when you’re already elite.”
Crosby sees no weaknesses — and a bar that’s been set incredibly high.
“They deserve a lot of credit,” he said. “It’s not easy, what they’re doing.”
The Anaheim Ducks are on course to set an ugly defensive record in 2022-23.
The rebuilding franchise is allowing 39.1 shots per game, which would supplant the worst-ever mark set by 1974-75 Washington Capitals (38.3) and the shooting gallery that was the New York Rangers defensive zone in the early 1960s — 1962-63 (38.0), 1963-64 (37.5) and 1960-61 (37.2).
San Jose Sharks defenceman Erik Karlsson has impressively managed to turn back the clock.
The 32-year-old two-time Norris Trophy winner, who could be dealt to a contender before the March 3 trade deadline, sits fifth in scoring with 73 points — including a league-best 54 at even strength — in 55 games.
And while some might have counted Karlsson out following a string of injury-ravaged seasons, a fellow Swede wasn’t among them.
“He’s shown his entire career what a good defenceman he is,” Vancouver Canucks centre Elias Pettersson said. “I’m not surprised.”
—Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press