Eight games into the 2022-23 NHL regular season, the biggest surprise team might be the Boston Bruins. Beginning the season with key injuries, they have jumped out to a 7-1-0 record, including going 6-0-0 at the TD Garden. After completing their four-game homestand with a 5-1win over the Detroit Red Wings, they hit the road for a four-game road trip.
After opening the season with a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Oct. 12 on the road and then falling 7-5 to the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 18, the Black and Gold are just 1-1-0 away from home. After taking advantage of a very friendly schedule from the NHL, Boston will face their first biggest test away with a road trip against three teams who were in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season and one who landed the biggest free agent on the market over the summer. The next eight days will tell us a lot about this Boston team early in the season. Boston will begin the trip shorthanded without David Krejci, who suffered an upper-body injury against the Red Wings and Brad Marchand, who is not playing in back-to-back games early in the season.
Friday, Oct. 28: at Columbus Blue Jackets, 7 p.m.
The Bruins begin their trip on a short turnaround with their only trip this season to Nationwide Arena to face the Columbus Blue Jackets. Boston will get first their look at Johnny Gaudreau, who signed a seven-year, $68.25 million contract over the summer that carries a $9.5 million average annual value (AAV), with his new team. In eight games this season, he had five goals and eight points.
Columbus is struggling to begin the season despite Gaudreau. Youngster Kent Johnson has three goals, while former Bruin Sean Kuraly is playing bottom-six minutes, while goalies Elvis Merzlikins, who is 2-2-0 with a 4.06 goals-against average (GAA) and a .863 save percentage (SV%) and Danil Tarasov, who is 1-3-0 with a 3.90 GAA and .888 SV% have both struggled to begin the season. Coming off a game the night before, this is a trap for the Bruins who better be ready for an angry Blue Jackets team following their 6-3 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 25.
Tuesday, Nov. 1: at Pittsburgh Penguins, 8 p.m.
The first of three consecutive games against Eastern Conference contenders begins with a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, who will be returning home following a five-game road trip that began in Columbus and ended with four games out West. Like the Bruins, there was little turnover with the Penguins’ roster from last season, but it has plenty of talent.
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Sidney Crosby had four goals and seven assists to begin the season, while Evgeni Malkin also has four goals with three assists. Pittsburgh’s goaltending duo of Casey DeSmith and Tristan Jarry have been a thorn in the Bruins’ side in past seasons, but if they can take advantage of a team playing their first home game after a five-game trip, they could steal a point or two in the standings.
Thursday, Nov. 3: at New York Rangers, 7:30 p.m.
The Bruins played the New York Rangers twice in the preseason, but this time it will be for real at Madison Square Garden. The Blueshirts were two wins away last spring from reaching the Stanley Cup Final, before losing the last four games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. New York added to their already good roster under coach Gerard Gallant by adding Vincent Trocheck, who has been a pest in the Bruins side when he was with the Carolina Hurricanes.
There is no shortage of talent up front for the Rangers with Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Alexis Lafreniere. Adam Fox will be a big obstacle on defense the Bruins will have to try and figure out in front of Igor Shesterkin, who won the Vezina Trophy last season. In five games this season, he has left off where he finished last season with a 3-0-2 record and a 2.57 GAA, and a .916 SV%. This will be a tall order for the Bruins.
Saturday, Nov. 5: at Toronto Maple Leafs, 7 p.m.
The first of four matchups between two Original Six teams and Atlantic Division rivals will be held at Scotiabank Arena. The Maple Leafs’ playoff history is widely known, but they are this writer’s pick to not only win the division, but also the Eastern Conference.
Like the Penguins and Rangers, there is no shortage of offensive firepower in Toronto’s lineup. Auston Matthews is one of the most gifted goal-scorers in the NHL. He scored 60 goals in 2021-22, which won him the Hart Trophy and Maurice Rocket Richard Award. This season he has started slow with just two goals in eight games, but he should be near the top of the leading goal-scorers at the end of the season.
Toronto went through a change in the offseason in goal. Jack Campbell left in free agency for the Edmonton Oilers and they traded for Matt Murray, while also signing Ilya Samsonov in free agency. Murray was placed on Long-Term Injury Reserve last week (LTIR), which puts the goaltending duties on Samsonov. The former Capitals netminder is 4-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .932 SV%.
Things have gone very well in the first eight games for the Bruins despite the injuries. They have more than held their head above water, but things get very difficult over the next eight days. These are teams that the Black and Gold will be battling with for a postseason berth next spring. This trip will be a good early-season test for Jim Montgomery’s group. Four or more points out of a possible eight should be considered a successful trip.
Note: All stats are updated through Oct. 27.