In the first month and a half of the 2021-22 NHL season, the Boston Bruins schedule has been one that many people with the team have been less than thrilled with. They have had multiple gaps in the schedule with days off between games, which can lead to a team struggling to find rhythm and chemistry.
In the month of November, the Black and Gold played eight of their 12 games at the TD Garden, but they split the eight games. They lost to Western Conference powerhouses Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, while the surging New York Rangers took down the Black and Gold on Black Friday, 5-2, and the Detroit Red Wings closed out the homestand with 2-1 win. Boston is still searching for a “quality win’’ on their resume this season and they have plenty of chances coming up in December, but it will most likely have to be done on the road as they will play eight of the 13 games away from home.
Here are the top five games in December that are a must-watch for the Bruins, which will be without Brad Marchand for the first two games because of his three-game suspension.
Dec. 4 – vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
For the first time since March of 2020, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs make their way to Boston. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic that threw the league into a crazy schedule with realigned divisions last season, the Bruins and Lightning were battling for the top spot in the Atlantic Division in 2019 and 2020.
This season, the two teams are going in opposite directions with the Lightning near the top of the standings in the division, while the Bruins are lagging behind in fifth place. There was some roster turnover over the summer for the champs, but they still have a loaded roster that is in the thick of things this season. Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is having another strong season, while Steven Stamkos leads the team in goals and Victor Hedman anchors the defense. There most likely is still no love lost between the teams, despite not seeing each other for a long time.
Dec. 8 – at Vancouver Canucks
The Bruins will return to Rogers Arena, where they won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. There are barely many holdovers on each roster from 10 years ago, but it will be the second time in 10 days the two teams meet after a 3-2 Black and Gold win on Nov. 28 on home ice. It also will be the first game that Marchand will be eligible to come back from his suspension for slew-footing Oliver Ekman-Larsson in the Bruins’ win against the Canucks.
Vancouver made several moves this offseason, but things have yet to click for them as they have eight wins in their first 24 games. The Canucks roster has former Boston goalie Jaroslav Halak on it, along with names the Bruins were linked to over the summer in Connor Garland and Ekman-Larsson. J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser, and Bo Horvat are other good players for a team that is better than their record indicates. Anything short of two points at the end of the night will be a disappointment for Bruce Cassidy’s crew.
Dec. 16 – at New York Islanders
It would be hard to find a team that has had to overcome many obstacles early in the season than the Islanders. They began the season with a 13-game road trip while their new home, UBS Arena, was having the finishing touches put on it. Then a COVID-19 outbreak, which forced the league to step in and cancel some games, affected most of the top players on the team and has contributed to their current eight-game losing streak.
This will be the first of three meetings between the Bruins and Islanders this season. New York, which eliminated the Black and Gold from last spring’s playoffs in six games, has the fifth-worst goal-differential in the league at minus-20.
Dec. 18 – at Montreal Canadiens
This will be the Bruins’ first trip to Montreal since the 2019-20 season. Boston won the first game on Nov. 14 at the TD Garden with a four-goal third period for a 5-2 win. Since that game, the Canadiens cleaned house in their front office and brought former Bruins assistant general manager Jeff Gorton in as Executive President of Hockey Operations.
Montreal has struggled this season like the Bruins, but you can always throw the records out when the two teams battle. Expect to have the Molson Center rocking for this Original Six battle.
Dec. 23 – vs. Colorado Avalanche
One of the favorites to hoist the Stanley Cup in 2022, the Avalanche started the season slowly, but have been playing good hockey and moving their way up the Western Conference standings. There is no shortage of star power with Colorado, which makes their only trip to the TD Garden two nights before Christmas.
Colorado has plenty of firepower with Nazem Kadri who leads them in points, along with Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon upfront. Former University of Massachusetts standout Cale Makar anchors the defense, in front of goalie Darcy Kuemper, who the Avalanche acquired in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes after Philipp Graubauer signed in free agency with the Seattle Kraken.
December will be a busy month for the Black and Gold, and with the suspension to Marchand, it’s going to start out tough. A Western Conference road trip through Canada, along with some Eastern Conference rivals will make for an interesting final month of 2021.
Latest News & Highlights
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.