With the NHL’s regular season approaching quickly, it seems appropriate to look ahead to the Boston Bruins’ matchups in 2017-18 and determine which games fans of the team should mark off on their calendars as must-watch contests. For the true die-hard Bruins fan, all 82 games will be must-watch. Still, not everybody can commit to watching every single game over such a long season, and as such, this list is meant to compile the six most absolutely can’t-miss games for all fans of the Bruins. While there can be an argument made for many other games to make this list, the games chosen all have big-game feels to them for a variety of reasons.
Home Opener Will Set the Tone for the 2017-18 Season
Oct. 5 – Nashville Predators
When the Bruins kick off the season on Oct. 5 against the Nashville Predators, it will be the first time they will have played a meaningful hockey game since April 23 when the Bruins lost in overtime of Game 6 to the Ottawa Senators, effectively ending their 2016-17 season. It will also be the first game that the Predators will be playing following their loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final on June 11. For both teams, Oct. 5 will be a way to put those demoralizing losses behind them while aiming to set the tone for the new league year.
The Boston Bruins will likely feature a few new faces in their lineup, including Charlie McAvoy. Though McAvoy did play in all six of the Bruins playoff games last season, he’s yet to make his regular season debut. After impressing in his first taste of postseason action, the entire Bruins fan base is waiting with bated breath to see how good this young talent can truly be.
While the Bruins’ lineup on the first day of the regular season likely won’t be indicative of their final lineup, it will still be a good indication of what the team’s core will look like. Getting early exposure is important in any sports league, and any rookie or roster-bubble player who makes an impact in the preseason could get an opportunity to stick with the big club for the first game of the season. What they do in their first NHL opportunity is up to them, but both Brandon Carlo and David Pastrnak before him are two examples of players that can make an impact and earn their stay sooner rather than later.
A New Opponent Enters the Fray
Oct. 15 – Vegas Golden Knights
While this game won’t necessarily mean much one way or another outside of the two points in the standings, it’s a historical game that is worth watching as a result. For the first time in history, the Boston Bruins will square off with the NHL’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. The game will be on the road and will be only the fifth regular season game for the Golden Knights. Despite this matchup not being anything season-changing, it’s still something that fans of the Bruins should mark down on their calendars. There will only ever be one first game against a franchise, and the Bruins get their first game against this new franchise right at the beginning of the season.
The game will also likely feature the narrative of Colin Miller, the former Bruins’ blueliner who was selected by the Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft, and what the team could have had moving forward. Whether or not the decision to expose Miller was the right one is yet to be seen. Regardless of that, the fact that he was left unprotected will forever be a decision that Don Sweeney and the Bruins will have to live with – for better or for worse. In the end, it probably won’t matter one way or another in this first matchup, but sports have a weird way of working sometimes and Miller could end up having a career game. He could also end up riding the bench and not making a huge impact. Only time will tell.
A Thanksgiving Matchup Against the Champs
Nov 24 – Pittsburgh Penguins
Thanksgiving weekend. A time when families can get together and give thanks for everything that they have in their life, including family and friends. For the Bruins, however, Thanksgiving weekend will be about proving they can hang with the Pittsburgh Penguins – the defending Stanley Cup Champion looking to turn their title repeat into a trepeat. The Bruins and Penguins have had some intense matchups in the past, including the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals that saw both teams give it all they had in a grueling four-game series that saw the Bruins sweep the Penguins. While the makeup of both teams is significantly different now, the cores remain the same. The Penguins still feature two of the very best players in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and the Bruins could gain some huge momentum by earning a victory that day.
Any time a team can beat the defending champions, a huge morale boost is earned. the pressure is on for every team facing off against the Penguins in the 2017-18 season because to be the team, you have to beat the team. In the NHL, that team is undoubtedly the Pittsburgh Penguins. If the Bruins do indeed feature a lineup full of young players in 2017-18, this matchup could be critical early on in their development as it’ll show how they can match up against not only some of the best players in the world but some of the best young players in the NHL – players like Conor Sheary, Jake Guentzel and more.
Rematch From the 2017 NHL Playoffs
Dec. 27 – Ottawa Senators
When the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators meet up just two days after Christmas, there won’t be much cheer or many jolly feelings between the two clubs. That’s because the last time these two teams met was in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs in April. While both teams will undoubtedly look different than the last time they met, there’s still bound to be some resentment on both sides after a tough series that saw six consecutive one-goal decisions lead to the Senators advancing and the Bruins going home.
This game could end up being a let-down in the sense that both squads could let bygones be bygones and focus on the two-points at hand, rather than the playoff series that will have happened eight months prior at the time of the game. Still, the game also has the potential to be action-filled with hard-hitting action as both teams look to earn the always-valuable two points in a divisional matchup. This game is a must-watch simply for the potential it brings, even if both teams have moved on. An interesting sidenote about these two teams is that the Bruins also finish off the regular season against the Senators – a game that could have significant playoff implications down the stretch. Consider that to be a bonus seventh must-watch game.
Claude Julien’s First Game Against the Bruins and Return to Boston
Jan. 13 – Montreal Canadiens
When the Bruins travel to Montreal in January of 2018, they will be facing off against their long-time rival for the 916th time between the regular season and postseason games. While the games always have a certain meaning behind them, regardless of position in the standings, this game will undoubtedly mean more than the typical meeting between these two clubs for one specific reason. That one reason, of course, is Claude Julien.
After spending the first 159 games of his career with the Montreal Canadiens (and another 79 with the New Jersey Devils), Julien went on to become arguably the greatest head coach in the history of the Boston Bruins franchise. Compiling a 393-223-88 record (good for a .588 win percentage and the most wins in the history of the franchise among head coaches), Julien made his mark with the team by making the playoffs in each of his first seven seasons with the team, including two Stanley Cup appearances. Winning the Cup in 2011 will forever be the highlight of Julien’s career, but after missing the playoffs for two seasons and on pace to potentially miss them again in 2016-17, the Bruins moved on from Julien who eventually found himself with the Montreal Canadiens later that season.
On Jan. 13, the Bruins will get their first chance to play against Claude Julien with his new (old) club. It will be an emotional game for many as Julien spent nearly a decade of his life with the Bruins, a team still full of players that entered the league and learned under him as their coach.
Jan. 17 – Montreal Canadiens
Just a few short days after the Bruins face off against Claude Julien for the first time after him rejoining the Montreal Canadiens, another must-watch game will take place. On Wednesday, Jan. 17, Claude Julien will make his return to Boston – a city he called home for nearly a decade. While this game will be the second of three matchups in a span of seven days between the Bruins and Canadiens, it might end up being the most unforgettable of the bunch. Julien had so much success in Boston and will likely receive a heart-warming reception from the crowd accompanied with a video thanking him for his tenure with the club.
When the game starts, both teams will bring their A-Game. The Bruins to prove that they can play well despite Julien no longer being at the helm, and the Canadiens to try and help their head coach get a win over his old team. Bruins and Canadiens games are always must-watch games, but this one specifically should be watched without exception due to the narrative heading into it. Julien will forever be an icon in Boston sports and he’ll always be welcomed with open arms in the city. When coaching the rivaled-Montreal Canadiens, however, he’ll be just another head coach that the Bruins will have to compete against.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.