The Boston Bruins are off to their best start in franchise history. They’ve beaten good teams. They’ve beaten bad teams. They’ve beaten teams nobody knows what to make of. They can seemingly do no wrong.
Tonight, the Bruins face off against the Chicago Blackhawks, a team that has been playing much better than their preseason projections would have anticipated, but a team nonetheless that should not trouble Boston. After this game, things get interesting. Six of the next seven games for the B’s are against teams who were in the playoffs last season. Two of those games draw the Colorado Avalanche, the team that hoisted the Stanley Cup. Luckily there is one game mixed in against a team who missed the postseason!
Oh wait, that team is the Vegas Golden Knights. The team that hired former Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, and currently sits atop the entire Western Conference in points and winning percentage. This Vegas team is the same team that acquired Jack Eichel last season, and even amongst a myriad of injuries, still almost snuck into a playoff spot in the final week of the season.
Latest News & Highlights
Safe to say, the next three weeks will be a buzzsaw. All is not lost, however. This Bruins team is good, very good. While this stretch will be a challenge, it will also act as an early season measuring stick to see how the Jim Montgomery-led Bruins face off against some of the league’s best. Stick around to read up on this next stretch of games, as well as to hear what I believe fair expectations are for the Bruins.
Bruins’ Next 3 Weeks
The Bruins’ next seven games see them face off against the Tampa Bay Lightning twice, the Florida Panthers, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Avalanche twice, and the Golden Knights. Definitely not a stretch of games many teams would want to see stacked together, but that is beside the point. Knowing the Bruins have these opponents, what can fans expect?
In short, these games should all be exciting. Both sides will be top teams, meaning the playoff preview narrative will be in full force, especially among the Eastern Conference foes. The Bruins also avoid any back-to-backs in this stretch, a factor that, although downplayed by some, could still prove important, as players will be able to rest and recover in between games.
With each of these matchups having a very real possibility of popping up with a chance at the Cup on the line, the games should be full of physicality and “tone-setting”. Although neither team will look the same as they do in the winter compared to their late spring version, both sides will look to set the tone and dominate the games in every sense of the word. Look for plenty of checks, some post-whistle scrums, and even a chance at fights as both sides will seek to show they aren’t intimidated by the other.
What Are Fair Expectations For the Bruins?
I know I spent the first half of this pointing out how difficult the next three weeks will be for the Bruins, but I do think there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
First of all, as mentioned above and has been pointed out before, the Bruins are an incredibly strong team, across all three zones and up and down the lineup. They have found scoring from every line and defensive pairing, even seeing fourth-liner Tomas Nosek break his nearly 11-month goalless drought with two goals in the last week. David Krejci has also rediscovered his scoring touch, potting two goals against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Montgomery has ignited a level of offensive creativity missing from recent Bruins teams. Whether the Perfection Line, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, line up together again, or if Pastrnak slides down with Krejci and Taylor Hall with Jake DeBrusk taking the right-wing position with Marchand and Bergeron, the top-six is among the best around the league.
Second, although these teams were all postseason participants last season, they have not found the same success this year. Vegas is the only team coming up that is in the top five in points this season. The Hurricanes (6) and Lightning (10) get added when the cut-off is top ten. The Avalanche and Panthers, arguably the two strongest teams on paper, are middling at 14 and 15 in the league in points. These teams should remain competitive, but something is different from last season’s iteration.
Third, the Bruins continue to regain health. Jeremy Swayman has returned to the team, ahead of schedule just like every other Boston player this season. He gives the team their top goalie tandem, a factor that will be important with so many games against such quality opponents. Linus Ullmark has been dominant this season, playing more than expected with Swayman’s injury, but he should go back to starting 60 percent or less of the games as Swayman can shoulder some of the load. Both guys should give the Bruins a chance to remain in any game.
What to Make of This Stretch of Games
Given all of this, what is a fair expectation for the Bruins? I think reason would show, the team will likely regress from their 15-2-0 record. That shouldn’t be shocking to anyone. Even with this regression, I think fans should expect points in at least half of the games.
Seeing the matchups against Cassidy will be particularly interesting, seeing how the Bruins attack their old system, and how their old coach strategizes against his old players. The game against the Canes will also be key. During the regular season last year, Rob Brind’Amour’s team dominated the Bruins. The playoffs saw a more even playing field, but still an edge going to Carolina. How the new-look Bruins and Montgomery attack a team that has given them fits in the past will be important.
This should be three weeks of exciting hockey. These are the teams the Bruins will have to beat in their quest for a Cup, and this first iteration of this season’s matchup against the Lightning and Hurricanes will be a measuring stick for how legit they are. Finally, the game against the Panthers will be useful to see if their first meeting, a Bruins’ 5-3 win at TD Garden, was a real indication of the matchup or a blip on the radar.
Stay tuned and share your predictions below for the Bruins’ next three weeks, and thoughts on the season to date.
Vince Reilly covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. Vince graduated from Grinnell College with a Bachelors in History and Political Science and earned a Masters in Sports Administration from Belmont University. He has worked in the Predators Front Office on Analytics and Operations, with Major League Baseball in Replay, and now with Tufts University as a Director of Hockey Analytics. Vince can always be found with a coffee in hand and he promises his sarcastic tone will always shine through his work.