Among all the statistics that add up to explain why the Boston Bruins woke up this morning atop the Eastern Conference and neck and neck with San Jose for the most points in the entire NHL, one sticks out in my mind as the most astonishing: road winning percentage.
Through their first 21 road games, the Bruins have compiled a 14-4-3 record — a league-high .667 road win percentage. The fast start is a far cry from the away records the Bruins compiled last season (20-13-8) and the year before (17-22-2).
Goaltender Tim Thomas has been a major reason for the club’s ability to continually prevail away from Boston. He’s received the majority of the Bruins’ road starts (14) and compiled a 10-2-2 record with a 1.82 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and three shutouts.
“It doesn’t seem to phase us. Maybe we’re just not thinking about it too much,” Thomas told thebruinsblog.net before the club left for its current three-game road trip.
Even on weaker road teams the last two seasons, Thomas held his own in enemy territory. Last season, he was 10-7-4 away from home and the year before his road record stood at 14-14-2.
Part of the Bruins’ away success could be attributed to the bonds the team formed by playing their first four (and eight of their first 11) games on the road.
“It kind of does. It kind of gives you more of a chance to get to know some people,” acknowledged Thomas. “Maybe you wouldn’t if you didn’t have those trips until January and February. It’s kind of funny but you see each other less at home than you do on the road.”
Winger Michael Ryder has put up 14 points (8 goals, 6 assists) on the road for the Bruins. He agrees that chemistry has cultivated the Bruins’ “road warrior” approach.
“I just think we started off on the road a lot early in the year. I think that’s where we got our game going,” said Ryder. “And I just think for us, we’re the type of team now that we know every night we have to play the same game and not change too much. I think when we went on the road early in the season was a test for us and it gave us confidence to be able to go out and win on the road.”
The Bruins have also managed to turn the opposing teams’ crowds and the atmosphere in those buildings to their advantage. Thomas said that no matter the mood of the crowd, just having an excitable building gets him extra pumped. And rookie Blake Wheeler thinks the entire team thrives when there’s more than just the 20 opposing players trying to make life difficult for the Black and Gold.
“You probably more like to play in the buildings that are hostile, that are all over you,” explained Wheeler. “It fires you up to. It’s one of those things where the more people in the crowd, the better your opponent is to play. It’s just one of those things.”