Bruins on Boylston: Comparing 2023’s Bruins to 2011’s championship team


Illustration by Hailey Akau

The Bruins last won the Stanley Cup in 2011—could they win it again in 2023?

By Leo Kagan, Assistant Sports Editor

On June 15, 2011, then-Bruins captain Zdeno Chara hoisted the Stanley Cup above his head in victory, ending a 39-year championship drought for Boston’s premier hockey club. 

After 82 regulation contests and 25 more playoff match-ups (with three Game 7’s), the B’s finally captured the greatest prize in hockey. With a superbly balanced and defensively stout roster, the Bruins were among the best in the league in 2011—and the championship rings around their fingers proved it. 

That team was undoubtedly the best Bruins roster assembled in the 21st century—but it might not retain its best-in-show title for much longer.  

2023’s B’s (43-8-5) are performing even better than the 2011 squad in the regular season. They’re on pace for a record-breaking President’s Trophy win as the league’s best team, at or near the top of nearly every statistical category, and currently count as the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup

But will the 2023 Bruins prove to be better than their 2011 equivalents? Until they too hoist the Stanley Cup, it’s hard to say for certain. But while we anxiously wait for the postseason to begin, let’s take a look at how the 2023 team measures up to its championship counterpart. 

Today we’ll be using another nifty tool from my bag of pseudo-scientific measuring instruments: the Compare-inator. With the help of the Compare-inator, we’ll determine which team has the edge in five different categories: offense, defense, goaltending, coaching, and management. 


Left winger Milan Lucic and center David Krejci, both of whom tallied 62 points, were the Bruins’ top scorers in the 2010-11 season. In just 56 games this season, right winger David Pastrnak has already smashed through Lucic and Krejci’s totals to the tune of 77 points. Two more Bruins (left winger Brad Marchand and Krejci) are on pace to exceed the 62-point mark in 2023. 

But the NHL of 2011 was not nearly as high-scoring as today’s league: the average team in 2010-11 scored 224 goals over the course of a full regular season. In 2021-22, the league average fell at 255 goals. 

But even after adjusting for the league average, 2023’s Bruins are the higher scoring team: their 3.71 goals-for-per-game average is roughly 1.6 standard deviations above the mean, far more than the 2011 squad’s 0.9 standard deviations. 

In simpler terms, today’s Bruins are scoring far higher above the league average than the 2011 championship squad did—and for good reason. 2023’s lineup is simply more overwhelming offensively: Pastrnak, Marchand, and six-time 30-goal scorer Patrice Bergeron are the team’s top forwards, but with former league MVP Taylor Hall running the offense from the third line and dark horse Norris Trophy candidate Hampus Lindholm pumping in pucks from the blue line, today’s Bruins are a goal-scoring machine. 

Compare-inator says: 2023 is better.


The 2011 lineup was built around a tough, defensive identity: offense was a balanced, team-centric approach, but one that always came second to keeping the puck out of goaltender Tim Thomas’ net. One would expect such a team would be stouter defensively than the high-octane Bruins of 2023—but were they really? 

The Bruins of 2011 allowed 2.3 goals-per-game on average. The Bruins of 2023 have allowed only 2.05. Dig deeper, and today’s Bruins are even more impressive; their goals against rate is 2.3 standard deviations lower than the league average, so one could argue 2023’s Bruins are better defensively than they are offensively. 

2011’s Bruins were no group of defensive schlubs—prime Zdeno Chara led the way, but Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference, and Johnny Boychuk were all superb defenders in their own right. However, 2023’s blue line is more well-rounded and deeper than that of 2011. 

Today’s Bruins boast not one, but two Norris Trophy candidates in Lindholm and 25-year-old Charlie McAvoy. The back end also features two top-notch shutdown defenders in Derek Forbort and Brandon Carlo, and a pair of strong two-way defenders in Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton. All that, and the B’s might add another defenseman at the trade deadline! 

Compare-inator says: 2023 is better. 


Linus Ullmark—arguably the best goaltender in the NHL—has been fantastic this season. His .937 save percentage and 1.88 goals against average are sterling marks—Ullmark leads the league in both categories and is in line for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL best netminder. But unfortunately for Ullmark, Tim Thomas was sensational to another degree in 2011. 

Thomas’ regular season .938 save percentage edges out Ullmark’s .936 (and also broke an NHL record). Advanced goaltending analytics support the case for Thomas over Ullmark too: in 2010-11, Thomas saved 39.6 goals above expected—nearly 14 more than second-place netminder Cam Ward. Not just that, it’s the most goals saved above expected in the 15 seasons the data has been tracked. 

Thomas capped off a Vezina-winning regular season with an even better playoff run, making a record-setting 798 postseason saves, posting four shutouts and a .940 (!) save percentage. He also won the 2011 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. 

Ullmark has the potential to put together an MVP-level season—there’s still time to build on his already commendable 31.8 goals saved above expected. But without the playoff run to compare, Thomas stands as the better goaltender. 

Compare-inator says: 2011 is better. 


When former Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy was fired in June of 2022, very few expected the Bruins to make major improvements under their new bench boss. Many, in fact, predicted that the Bruins would take steps backward in 2022-23

But new Head Coach Jim Montgomery has proven the doubters wrong, propelling an already strong hockey club to unforeseen heights in his first season behind the Bruins’ bench. Now, he’s on his way to a Jack Adams Award as the league’s best coach—but is he better than 2011’s Claude Julien? 

By the time Chara and the Bruins were lifting the Stanley Cup in the summer of 2011, Julien had cemented his place among the very best coaches in the NHL: 300 career wins, the most playoff victories of any Bruins head coach, and the 2009 Jack Adams Award to boot. Montgomery recorded his 100th win just over a week ago. 

The two coaches have very different styles—Julien demanded defensive excellence from his team, while Montgomery is more inclined to let the offense run loose. But each coach’s results speak for themselves: Montgomery’s Bruins are on the way to a potentially record-busting regular season, while Julien’s B’s won the Stanley Cup. 

For now, Julien gets the edge. While Montgomery’s been great behind the Bruins’ bench, he has yet to face any turbulence as head coach. In terms of clutch coaching, Julien’s ability to navigate the Bruins out from three Game 7’s in 2011 is about as clutch as one can get. 

Compare-inator says: 2011 is better. 


Then-Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli had a busy 2010 offseason. After acquiring forwards Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell via trade in June, Chiarelli re-signed six key contributors—including Hall of Famer Mark Recchi and 2010 trade deadline acquisition Dennis Seidenberg, a crucial component of the Bruins’ championship blue-line. 

Then, in-season, Chiarelli managed to add three more cogs to his contending team in defenseman Tomas Kaberle and forwards Rich Peverly and Chris Kelly. 

It would be natural to assume current Bruins GM Don Sweeney—who had a far slower offseason by comparison—is the lesser manager, but don’t mistake inactivity for incompetence. 

Sweeney made only a few significant offseason moves, but each had a substantial impact. First, he made the bold move to swap his Jack Adams-winning head coach (Cassidy) for a relatively unproven Montgomery. Then, Sweeney traded center Erik Haula—who’d just scored over 40 points for the B’s—for a younger, lower scoring forward in Pavel Zacha. Finally, the Bruins’ GM persuaded Bergeron and Krejci—who had spent a season in Czechia—to re-sign for one more shot at another championship. 

Seven months later, Montgomery is in line for a Jack Adams Award of his own, Zacha has fit like a glove in the Bruins’ offense, hitting career highs in points and assists after just 55 games, and Bergeron and Krejci have played as well as they ever have in Bruins’ uniforms. 

While Chiarelli made a flurry of trades over the course of the 2010-11 season to solidify an imperfect lineup, Sweeney never had to: his roster was already set to be one of the best in the league, even if not every hockey writer believed it

Compare-inator says: 2023 is better. 


Compare-inator final score: 3 wins for 2023, 2 wins for 2011

Some will disagree with these results—they are, after all, somewhat subjective. It’s difficult to determine which team is better until the spring, when the NHL’s best team will face the rigor of the postseason. 

For now, the Compare-inator deems the 2023 roster as better—but until its players have rings around their fingers, nothing is definite.