State your case: will the Bruins or the Penguins have more points this season?

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The Boston Bruins are off to a strong start, going 8-1-0 to lead the Atlantic Division. That includes a five-game winning streak in which they’ve held their last three opponents to one goal or less (3-1 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, 5-1 over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday and 4-0 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday).

The Pittsburgh Penguins weren’t so lucky. They are 4-4-1 and have lost four straight, all of which have come on a five-game road trip. It’s been quite a turn since they started 3-0-1 this season.

Departures are important, but how will the seasons continue for everyone? And at the end of the season, will the Bruins or the Penguins be the better team?

That’s the question columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika and editor Tracey Myers ask in this State Your Case article.

Myer: My argument probably would have had more weight before this weekend, when the Penguins’ losing streak reached four games. But there have been a few times now where I thought, “No, the Penguins don’t have it this season,” and I was wrong. So with all due respect to the Bruins, who are off to a great start, I think the Penguins are going to get back on track and finish higher. Sidney Crosby is still good and leads the Penguins with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in nine games. Yevgeny Malkin is off to a good start with eight points (four goals, four assists) in nine games. The Penguins are struggling to score goals, but they’ll find their touch. Jake Guentzel coming back on Saturday after missing four games with an upper body injury will help. I might end up being wrong (I usually do), but I’m not giving up on the Penguins just yet.

Video: PIT@CBJ: Crosby buries a scorer to take the lead

Cottonika: I wouldn’t give up on the Penguins either, not with Crosby, Malkin and Kris Letang, not to mention Guentzel and coach Mike Sullivan. But you’re in a tough spot Tracey. It’s hard to argue against the Bruins right now. At the start of the season, the biggest question was how they would handle their start with a new manager and key players injured. Well, coach Jim Montgomery has them 8-1-0 and atop the NHL standings at the start of the week. Defender Matt Grzelcyk returned from shoulder surgery on October 20. Brad Merchant returned from double hip surgery Thursday, and he looked great with two power-play goals and an assist in the win over the Red Wings. Wait for the defender Charlie McAvoy just got back from shoulder surgery. His six-month schedule would bring him back to around early December.

Myer: Oh sure, the odds are against the Penguins finishing higher than the Bruins, especially with a healthy and highly efficient Marchand back and McAvoy not yet back. Again, the Penguins are always finding ways to get things done and I think they’ll get their offense going again soon. They also need to improve their penalty kill. At the start of the week, he is 28th in the NHL at 71.0%. If the Penguins are to be among the top teams again, it’s not going to fly. It starts with being more disciplined, which the Penguins weren’t on their last road trip. Since Crosby, Malkin and Letang have been with the Penguins, they have strong leadership that knows when to kick the team and get going. They will get through this together.

Cottonika: Another good sign for the Bruins? After David Pastrnakwho leads the Bruins with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists), the next two leaders are Patrice Bergeron with nine points (four goals, five assists) and David Krejci with eight points (two goals, six assists). Bergeron returned at 37 after winning the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward for the fifth time last season. Krejci returned at 36 after playing last season in his native Czech Republic. (He left the game Thursday with an upper-body injury.) If Bergeron and Krejci can look like themselves as the season progresses, Boston will be tough to beat.

Video: FLA@BOS: Pastrnak dekes for a spectacular goal

Myer: Yes, the Bruins are getting what they need from their veterans early on. But here’s the thing with the Penguins: the first month of a season isn’t usually so good for them. Last season they finished October 3-3-2 and on a three-game losing streak. They started the 2020-21 season 5-4-1. We would have to go back to October 2019 to find a stronger start (8-5-0). In other words, the first weeks of a season are not their strong point. They will speed it up.

Cottonika: My final point is that each of these teams has had the same cores for a long time now, and the Bruins have just had better results over the past few seasons. Boston has finished with more points than Pittsburgh four times in the previous five seasons. The Bruins won six Stanley Cup playoff series during that span; the Penguins have won one — and none in the past four seasons. Whatever your definition of “best team at the end of the season”, I bet the trend will continue, which is why I choose Boston.

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