Toronto’s Wayne Simmonds, right, and Boston’s Nick Foligno fight during their game Saturday night in Boston. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

On Saturday night, the Boston Bruins did something they hadn’t done all season. They took the ice on the heels of a regulation loss at home. It took three-and-a-half months, but the Bruins finally had to show they can respond from a lackluster effort at TD Garden.

Did they ever. In one of the best games of the season, Boston turned back Toronto on a pulsating night on Causeway Street.

It was as close to playoff intensity as you will ever find on NHL ice in January. The Garden rocked from the drop of the puck, and only got louder when Boston’s Nick Foligno went toe to toe with Wayne Simmonds in a heavyweight bout that set the tone for the night.

It was the type of battle rarely seen in today’s game, the type of fight hockey’s founding fathers were accustomed to a hundred years ago. It was only fitting the two veterans squared up in their first fight with one another during a Saturday night Original Six matchup.

That intensity never waned over the following two hours, and Matt Grzelcyk sent everyone home happy when he scored the game winner with 1:16 remaining in the final period.

The win left the Bruins 11 points ahead of the second-place Maple Leafs in the Atlantic Division and 10 points ahead of the race for the league’s best record.


We’re past the midway point of the season and the Bruins have yet to lose back-to-back games this season. They’re a perfect 9-0-0 in games following a regulation or overtime loss.

“We don’t want to lose two in a row,” Bruins Coach Jim Montgomery told reporters after the game, “because you get into a playoff, you lose two in a row, you’re in a little bit of a hole.”

There are no holes in Boston’s game right now. Grzelcyk and A.J. Greer both scored Saturday night, reminding everyone of the depth Boston features now that David Krejci has returned. Krejci played in his 1,000th career game in Monday’s win over the Flyers and hasn’t missed a beat despite missing last season when he opted to stay home in the Czech Republic. He took the ice Monday sitting sixth in Bruins history in assists, and is even better come playoff time.

Make no mistake, the playoffs are already on the minds of Bruins fans. This team is putting together one of the great seasons in NHL history. At 70 points through 42 games, they are on pace to break the league record of 62 wins in a season, set by the 1995-96 Red Wings and 2018-19 Lightning.

If the Bruins were to go .500 the rest of the season – a stunning dip in production that no one is expecting – they would still post 110 points for the season, one of the 10 best records in history.

In addition to their depth up front, the Bruins also have a stalwart goaltender in All-Star Linus Ullmark. There was plenty of criticism when the Bruins signed Ullmark to a four-year deal with Jeremy Swayman already on the roster. GM Don Sweeney looks pretty smart now.

As the oldest U.S. team in the league, the Bruins know their history well. They know half a season doesn’t mean anything, especially in a championship-driven town like Boston. The 1929-30 Bruins lost only five games, the best record in regular-season history, and lost to the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Final.

A lot can, and will, happen in the weeks ahead. Yet the Bruins start has given us reason to dream about the duck boats rolling through Boston this summer. With the state of the Patriots and Red Sox at the moment, those dreams will help get Boston fans through the cold winter months to come.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.