It’s been over a month since the Boston Bruins were eliminated by the hated Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Since then, The Hub of Hockey has soaked in the disappointment of an early exit. With the NHL revealing their regular season schedule on Sunday, some fans are already marking down key dates on their calendars for the 2014-15 season.
The Black and Gold still have some questions to answer during the off-season – from re-signing Jarome Iginla and RFAs Torey Krug and Reilly Smith to potentially moving other pieces via trade, including Brad Marchand and Johnny Boychuk. Even though the regular season is still a few months away, here’s a look at our five games to watch for the 2014-15 campaign.
1. Oct. 8 vs. Flyers
For the second time in four years – and the second time in three complete 82-game schedules – the Bruins will open their season with the Philadelphia Flyers. The B’s swept the three-game series from Philly last year. But the resurgent Broad Street Bullies under Craig Berube, who guided his team back to the postseason after missing out in the 2013 Lockout shortened season, will pose another interesting matchup.
This will also be the regular season debut of the $70 million renovations at TD Garden that include major technology upgrades from improved wi-fi to the new video walls in the concourses (that are also being upgraded) and a boost to the Bruins and Celtics proshop, just to name a few. Not a bad way to debut the new amenities on Causeway Street.
2. Nov. 22 vs. Canadiens
Any Bruins-Habs matchup during the regular season or the playoffs is must see TV. For this list, we chose to list the Canadiens’ return to the scene of the crime where they put the Black and Gold and their Stanley Cup dreams to rest in May.
This will be the first chance for Bruins fans to add more fuel to the fire for resident B’s villain PK Subban (assuming he re-signs with the Habs). It will also be the first time that Dale Weise and Milan Lucic exchange pleasantries since the “handshake heard around the world’’ after Game 7. With added hype for Hockey Night in Canada, what more can you ask for?
3. Nov. 24 vs. Penguins
Even with Shawn Thornton’s departure, there will be a lot of emotions in this one. This will be the first time the two teams will meet since the bloodbath that ensued in early December that featured Thornton sucker punching Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik, James Neal slewfooting Brad Marchand and Orpik’s high hit on Loui Eriksson, who suffered a concussion on the play.
Orpik, for that matter, is an unrestricted free agent and his future in Pittsburgh is uncertain. The same can be said for his 12 other teammates from 2013-14, who are either UFAs or RFAs, and for Marc-Andre Fleury, who after another playoff faux pas is a prime candidate for a compliance buyout. New GM Jim Rutherford already has his hands full, and he still hasn’t found a head coach to guide Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company back from the last few years of postseason disappointment.
Whether Pittsburgh uses “revenge’’ as a motivator for this game remains to be seen, but one thing is almost certain: this Penguins team will look a little different from the last time they met the Black and Gold.
4. Dec. 2 at Kings
With two cups in the last three years, the Kings could be on the verge of becoming the next NHL dynasty. Would they have hoisted Lord’s Stanley had the Bruins advanced to their Stanley Cup Final before being eliminated by the Habs?
Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and company will look to make a statement against another elite team in the first of two meetings. The Black and Gold, for that matter, will look to do the same. It’s safe to say that The Hub of Hockey will go into work the next day a bit tired with the 10:30 start on the east coast.
5. Feb. 22 at Blackhawks
As part of Hockey Day in America (presumably), the Bruins and Blackhawks will conclude the festivities with another nationally televised game at the United Center. From Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp to Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci – just to name a few – this game will have plenty of star power to sell the audience as the second game of a doubleheader on NBC.
More importantly, two traditional hockey markets and their passionate fan bases will be on display. That, in and of itself, should be enough to garner some pretty good ratings for a regular season hockey game towards the end of February.