Boston Bruins (1925-1930)

The Bruins entered the NHL in 1924 and after a disastrous first season, they quickly found their footing. The 1925-26 squad lacked forward stars, but still had standouts Lionel Hitchman and Sprague Cleghorn on the back end.  Despite not being perennial stars, forwards Carson Cooper and Jimmy Herberts finished third and fourth in scoring, respectively, both with 31 points in 36 games. The Bruins finished just barely out of a playoff spot, in fourth out of the seven teams.

The NHL expanded to the 44-game season it would keep for the next five seasons for the 1926-27 season. The Bruins lacked star power up front, but had a solid enough roster that they still finished in third in goals, scoring 2.20 goals per game. Acquiring Frank Frederickson from Detroit partway through the season helped too. While Hitchman had an off year and Cleghorn began to age, the blue line was bolstered by the acquisition of the great Eddie Shore, who finished third in scoring among defensemen in the NHL. The Bruins also acquired goalie Hal Winkler from the Rangers, who played significantly better than previous tender Charles Stewart. The Bruins finished fourth in the NHL out of the ten teams and second in the newly minted American Division, qualifying them for the playoffs for the first time. In an unlikely sequence of events, the Bruins went to the final to face the deadly Ottawa Senators. The Bruins were only able to beat tender Clint Benedict three times in the four game series and lost two games while tying the two others, leaving the Senators as the victors.

The Bruins came out strong in the 1927-28 season, but sorely lacked an offensive star, placing a heavy workload on the backs of star defender Shore and tender Winkler, who too established himself as one of the league’s better goaltenders with a 1.51 GAA and 15 shutouts, which was tied for the league lead. Shore himself tied for the league lead in points among defensemen with 17 himself. This strong defense not only saved the Bruins’ season, but gave them their best regular season yet, finishing with a record of 20-13-11. The Bruins finished first in the relatively weak American division and went on to the playoffs. After a bye in the first round, the Bruins were upset by the Rangers in the second round, losing the goal race 5-2. The Rangers would surprise even more and upset the favoured Canadiens in the finals for their first Cup.

Not willing stay down after such a defeat, the Bruins again started the 1928-29 season determined to improve. After a slightly rocky start, the Bruins became arguably the strongest team in the NHL, winning the most games, but falling just two points shy of the Canadiens thanks to the difference in ties. The 1928-29 season was a notoriously sparse season for offense, but the Bruins still managed to score goals despite their lack of a star forward. Balanced scoring throughout their roster ensured that the Bruins finished with the most goals in the league, scoring at 2.02 goals per game, the only team to average more than two goals per game. Veteran Harry Oliver led the way offensively with 17 goals and 23 points in 44 games and was aided by a young an improving Dit Clapper. Cooney Weiland gave the NHL a taste of the future with 11 goals and Eddie Shore continued his reliable dominance from the blue line, again finishing in first in the league with 19 points.

The real difference maker was young gun Cecil “Tiny” Thompson, who took the league by storm and finished second to only George Hainsworth and tied with Roy Worters with a stellar 1.15 GAA. In the playoffs, after earning another bye thanks to their 26-13-5 record and first place finish in the American division, the Bruins made sure not to make the same mistake again, sweeping their toughest competition in the Canadiens in three straight games. The Bruins would easily handle the Rangers in a series of vengeance in a two-game sweep, going undefeated en route to their first Stanley Cup.

The 1929-30 Bruins are widely regarded as one of the most dominant teams in NHL history. The team posted a stunning 38-5-1 record for an NHL record .875 point percentage, a mark considered unbeatable today. The Bruins dominated the league in every fashion including both goals for and goals against and lost just one game at home over the entire season. In stark contrast to the 1928-29 season, the 1929-30 was one of the most offensive ones the league had ever seen. Cooney Weiland exploded with 43 goals and another 40 assists for 73 points in just 44 games, a point total that would not be surpassed for 14 seasons, at which point teams played 50 games instead of 44. Fellow young gun Dit Clapper also exploded with 41 goals of his own, ensuring that Boston had the top two goal scorers in the NHL and the #1 and #3 point scorers in Weiland and Clapper, respectively.

On the back end, Shore continued his consistent strong play with 31 points in 42 games, putting him second among the league’s defenders. Tiny Thompson finished with a 2.19 GAA, which would have been terrible in the prior season, but was now far and away the best numbers, netting him the Vezina trophy. There is, however, one reason why many pundits don’t consider the 1929-30 Bruins among the best in NHL history. Thanks to a bye in the first round, the Bruins faced off against the Montreal Maroons, who had tied the Canadiens in points, but had more wins. After beating the Maroons 3-1 in the best-of-five series, the Bruins were up against the red hot Canadiens in the finals. Despite the strong play of the Canadiens, the Bruins were the clear favourites, not having lost consecutive games all season long. In an astounding upset, the Bruins not only lost the series, but were swept by the Canadiens in two straight games.

The Bruins would never fully recover from such an upset; despite a strong regular season the next year, they would lose in the first round. The Bruins delivered many strong teams to the NHL in the late 20s and did so not with offensive star power, but balanced scoring and building from the net out with Thompson and Shore. Their one Cup in 1929 ensured that their legacy as a dominant team was not totally forgotten.

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