The first 10 games of an NHL season are important, as all games are throughout the season. The first stretch, however, is a proving ground and can set the tone for the entire season. The Bruins have many questions to be answered in the first few, such as: how will David Backes begin his time on the B’s? Who will be the young guys that step up and earn a spot on the roster? will Don Sweeney notice the Bruins’ back-end needs better help? Those questions and more have yet to be answered. It will also be interesting to see how Brad Marchand transitions from his amazing World Cup showing back to the NHL.
The Bruins started their first 10 games last season with a 6-3-1 record. This is not bad, but they ended up missing the playoffs by a hair. That shows that the first 10 might not paint the whole picture for the year, but in most cases, these games are an integral part of the season.
Boston’s season begins on the road for three games, then home for three, and then they are back out on the road for four games. Last season the Bruins had a home record of 17-18-6 and an away record of 25-13-3. It is a brand new season, but those numbers are very telling. The B’s were a lot better on opponent’s ice and seven of their first 10 games this season are on the road.
First Three on the Road
The Bruins start their season on Oct. 13 in Columbus. The first three-game road stretch should be a somewhat easy one for Boston, as all three teams they face are not great teams in Columbus, Toronto, and Winnipeg. The Bruins compiled a 7-2-1 total record against the three clubs last season. The Blue Jackets gave the Bruins no problems last year and they have not made any offseason moves to get better for the upcoming season. They signed their top young defenseman, Seth Jones, for another six years, but that is the only significant move they made throughout the summer.
After Columbus, the B’s head to Toronto. Boston did not lose to the Maple Leafs in regulation last season, winning the season series 4-0-1. The lowly Maple Leafs will most likely be a cellar-dweller and an easy opponent again for the Bruins next season. Toronto did, however, draft top prospect, Auston Matthews, and traded for, and extended up-and-coming goaltender Frederik Andersen this summer, but neither can be too effective without a good team surrounding them.
In the final game of the season-opening road trip, Boston will take on the Winnipeg Jets. The Bruins swapped wins with Winnipeg in their two-game series last season. Like the other two teams mentioned, the Jets have not significantly made their team better over the summer. They re-signed center Mark Scheifele to an eight-year deal and drafted forward Patrik Laine with the second pick in the draft. Their future top defenseman Jacob Trouba has requested a trade from the team; an announcement that has rumors swirling and Bruins fans excited, hoping Don Sweeney can somehow pull off a deal for the future star.
Back Home for Three Games
After Boston plays the Jets, they finally come home for their first home stretch of the season on Oct. 20 against the New Jersey Devils and then they take on the Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota Wild. The Bruins had a combined 6-4 record against these three teams last season.
The first home game is against the Devils, a team who like the Bruins, missed the playoffs last season. The Devils made one of the biggest, most surprising moves of the offseason when they committed highway robbery by sending defenseman Adam Larsson to the Edmonton Oilers for big-name winger Taylor Hall. This move instantly makes them better on offense, adding to their budding forward core with Adam Henrique and Kyle Palmieri.
Acquiring Hall will give the Bruins problems with their porous defense. New Jersey also has one of the best goaltenders in the league in Cory Schneider, who is always hard to score against. The B’s went 2-1 against the Devils last season.
After the Devils, the Canadiens come to town, a team that the Bruins had a losing record against lastseason, going 2-3. The Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price, will be back in action after missing most of the last season due to injury. Price is regarded as the best goalie in the league by most analysts, and his play shows that he is. Price will have a new all-star defenseman in front of him this upcoming season after the team traded PK Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber. Both d-men are top in the league but they both needed a change of scenery. The Canadiens missed the playoffs last season, but that will most likely change in the upcoming campaign if the whole team can stay healthy.
The last game of the first home stretch of the season is against the Wild. Boston won both games they played against Minnesota last season. When the Wild come to town, they will not look much different than last season, as they haven’t changed much since the last time the Bruins saw them. Their big move of the summer was signing the aging Eric Staal to a three-year deal. This game has the potential to be an easy win for the B’s before heading out on the road for their next four games.
Four-Game Road Trip
When the Bruins hit the road for their four-game trip, they first take on the New York Rangers, then go on to play three divisional games in a row against the Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Boston had a collective record of 9-6 against those four clubs last season
First, the B’s take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. New York took the series against Boston last season, two games to one. One of the more interesting stories this offseason was where prospect, Jimmy Vesey, would choose to play. Bruins fans had a special interest in this story as Vesey was born in North Reading, MA and played for Harvard in college. He made comments throughout the summer, saying that he wanted to stay close to home, but then decided to head to the Big Apple. Vesey may have a special target on his jersey when Boston meets the Rangers.
The Bruins then head to Detroit, a team they handled easily last season, putting up a 3-1 record. The Red Wings may look a little different next season, as Pavel Datsyuk has retired from the NHL and has headed home to Russia. Goaltender Jimmy Howard may be traded by this game, giving Petr Mrazek the crease. In free agency, Detroit signed highly sought after forward Frans Nielsen, and Thomas Vanek, who the Minnesota Wild had recently bought-out. Taking on Detroit may be a breeze for the B’s this season, but after this game, the black and gold head to Florida to take on the Panthers and then the Tampa Bay Lightning, in what will be their most challenging task up to that point.
The Bruins land in Florida on Nov. 1 to face last season’s Atlantic Division champs, the Panthers. Boston won their series against the Panthers last season, 3-1. That may seem like the Panthers are an easy team to beat, but this team is not to be taken lightly. Once again, they won the Division last season, and they have one of the best young forward groups in the league that can strike at any time. They also have a living legend in Jaromir Jagr leading that group. He was their leading point scorer last season and Florida locked him up for this season over the summer. He has more mentoring to do on this team, something that has worked out for the team immensely. The Bruins had an easy time against the Atlantic Division last season but it might not stay that way for too long.
After battling the Panthers, the Bruins go on to their tenth game of the season, and their last of the four-game road trip, against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bruins split their series with Tampa last season, but the Lightning will be better than ever this season. They locked up their franchise forward, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman, their franchise defenseman, to big contracts this offseason. They have more depth at every position than any team in the Atlantic this season. Boston will not be able to matchup against the Lightning during five-on-five play, but Tampa had one of the worst power plays in the league last season, ranking 26th in the NHL, but that could all change this season. The Lightning will be a serious Cup contender this season. After this game, the Bruins head back to Boston to continue the rest of their season.
The Bruins have a good chance of going 6-4 in the first 10 games of the season. Boston should be happy with six wins or more but anything less than five wins and there should be changes made to the team or management. No matter how early in the season it is, the Bruins have to start off on the right foot and make sure that they don’t miss the playoffs for the third season in a row.