BOSTON — It is the time of the N.H.L. season when teams begin looking ahead to the playoffs. That the Boston Bruins can do so from such a high perch — they were in second place in the Eastern Conference entering Friday’s games — is testimony to what they were able to accomplish when leaves still were on trees.
Bruce Cassidy started his first full season as Bruins coach with the veteran forwards David Krejci (18 games), David Backes (17), Brad Marchand (8) and Patrice Bergeron (5) missing long stretches in October and November. He was also introducing a more up-tempo, aggressive style of play from that favored by his predecessor, Claude Julien, who was fired last February.
At 6-7-4 after a loss at Anaheim on Nov. 15, the Bruins won nine of their next 11. Then, starting on Dec. 16, they earned points in their next 18 games (14-0-4), until the streak ended with a 3-1 loss at home to Anaheim on Tuesday night. It was the team’s longest such streak since the Bruins of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito and Gerry Cheevers put together a 13-0-5 run in the 1968-69 season.
Before regaining full strength, the Bruins played as many as seven rookies among their 20 skaters in consecutive games in November. Seven players have scored their first regular-season N.H.L. goals this season, and defenseman Brandon Carlo, 21, a second-year player, is often paired with the captain Zdeno Chara.