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The Avalanche bring the NHL’s measuring stick to Boston

Colorado is the reigning Stanley Cup champion, giving the Bruins a great chance to test themselves amid a strong start.

Christian Petersen
UMass product Cale Makar took hold of the Stanley Cup after the Avalanche's Game 6 win over the Lightning in June.

Through the first quarter of the season, the Bruins weren’t just good — they were historically good. When they sat down for their Thanksgiving feasts they did so with an NHL-best record of 17-3-0, and still unbeaten on home ice.

It was likely better than any start Jim Montgomery could’ve imagined for his first quarter-season behind the bench, and yet, some continue to question whether Boston really belongs on the short list of Stanley Cup contenders.

So there’s no better time for the reigning Cup champs to come to town.

The Colorado Avalanche arrive for a showdown on the first Saturday night in December, and with them they’ll bring a measuring stick by which the Bruins can see where they stand. Not only did the Avs hoist the hardware last spring, but they’ve remained near the top of the Western Conference standings throughout the start of this season, and their talent includes a couple of the NHL’s best players.

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Center Nathan MacKinnon, a former No. 1 overall pick, signed the richest annual contract in league history after leading the playoffs in goals last season. He validated that agreement by averaging a point and a half per game over Colorado’s first 18 contests this season — and he still wasn’t the Avs leading scorer to that point. That was right wing Mikko Rantanen.

Colorado’s biggest star, however, is Cale Makar, the UMass product who brought the Minutemen to the NCAA national championship while winning the Hobey Baker Award in 2019. Still just 24, since leaving Amherst he’s become a two-time, first-team NHL All-Star, and last year won both the Norris Trophy (best defenseman) and Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP) in addition to the best trophy in all of sports.

That’s the trophy the Bruins hope to prove themselves worthy of taking from the Avalanche in front of a packed Garden crowd on Dec. 3 — and during the eight-day gauntlet it falls within. In barely a week’s time, the B’s face the three-time reigning Eastern Conference champion Lightning, then host the Avalanche, then welcome former coach Bruce Cassidy’s Golden Knights, then head to Denver for a rematch with the Avs. It surely won’t be easy, but it should be telling.

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