The dog days of summer are still here – and while the 90-degree heat may fool you into thinking that hockey is a dream that’s still far, far away, that really isn’t the case. With the calendar turning to September, the start of the NHL regular season is just over a month away. The drama of the offseason has, for the most part, shown its face, transforming the teams that finished the 2017-18 season this spring (or summer) into those that will begin with a fresh slate this fall.
In particular, the Atlantic Division is shaping up to be a heavyweight fight. The Tampa Bay Lightning, who beat out the Bruins by a single point for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, remain a top-flight contender. Meanwhile, the Toronto Maple Leafs, who came within minutes of ending Boston’s season in the opening round of the playoffs, have added superstar John Tavares to an already-explosive offense, making Toronto a very legitimate threat in the East.
The Bruins, meanwhile, have had a relatively quiet offseason, adding depth to their lineup without making any high-profile additions. Still, the team that finished with the fourth-best record in all of hockey last year remains a contender. But of course, making a run for the Stanley Cup means first fighting your way through the beasts of the Atlantic Division – a task that the Bruins will wrestle with all season.
Strong Start Key to Season Success
The Bruins open the season with a difficult road matchup against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, which, despite being the first game of the season, will be a strong early test for the team. After that game, however, the Bruins’ schedule over the course of the first month becomes a lot lighter.
Of the twelve games the Bruins have in the opening month of October, only two are against teams who made the postseason last year (Washington on opening day, and Philadelphia on Oct. 25). Five of the games will be played against teams who finished in the bottom three spots of their conference.
Of course, last season’s records are wiped clean. A team who finished with a poor record last year may be a contender this season. Still, Boston’s opening month of hockey should provide them with a lot of opportunities to win, and in doing so, get off to a strong start in a behemoth division.
Last Season’s Average Start Cost Bruins
At the end of the day, every game is worth the same amount. Sure, a win in April may feel better. Wins at the end of the season that build momentum heading into the playoffs may carry more emotional weight. But at the end of the day, a win is worth two points.
Take a look at last season’s standings. As aforementioned, the Bruins lost the top spot in the East to the Lightning by a single point. One more point could have put them over the edge to win the regular-season conference title (or two points, depending on how their goal differential may have changed). That point could have come last October when the Bruins got off to a decent, but by no means very strong start.
Last year, the Bruins opened their campaign against the defending Western Conference champion Nashville Predators. After securing an opening day win, the Bruins lost two straight against the Colorado Avalanche, who ended the season in the West’s final playoff spot. After those two against Colorado, the Bruins finished the month with seven games. Four of those games were against teams who finished in playoff spots, while the other three teams finished in the bottom two spots of their conference. The Bruins finished their month of October with a 4-3-3 record, their second-worst month of the season besides April, when they went 1-3-1.
Needless to say, an extra win or point in October could’ve made a difference for the Bruins. With a weak early schedule this season, the Bruins have an opportunity to right a wrong from last season.
Cam is a Broadcast Journalism student at the University of Maryland. He’s the Boston Bruins Beat Writer at The Hockey Writers, and is an avid college hockey fan. Find him on Twitter @CamHasbrouck!