Five dates to circle on B's calendar for 2015-16 season


Five dates to circle on B's calendar for 2015-16 season

The NHL released their master schedule for the 2015-16 regular season, and each of the 30 teams learned what their 82-game odyssey will officially look like for next season. Clearly the Winter Classic is the biggest individual date on the calendar for the Boston Bruins with a Jan. 1 showdown against the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium sure to capture everyone’s fancy. But we like to break things down beyond the obvious, so here are five dates to circle on the B’s calendar for the upcoming season with games you won’t want to miss.


5. Friday, Nov. 27 against the New York Rangers – After a one year hiatus, the Bruins get their Black Monday afternoon matinee back with a 1 pm game against the Blueshirts at TD Garden. It felt odd last season when the Bruins instead hosted the Winnipeg Jets for a Black Friday night game, and instead it was the Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers that played the afternoon game on the day after Thanksgiving. It was the first time since 1990 – barring the lockout seasons, of course -- that the Bruins hadn’t played a matinee on the day after Thanksgiving, and thankfully the NHL schedule-makers returned to tradition this season with the Black Friday matinee complete with leftover turkey and spiked Egg Nog.


4. Saturday, Dec. 26 against the Buffalo Sabres – Bruins fans will get a late Christmas present with Buffalo traveling to Boston for a game on the day after Christmas, and everybody getting their first chance to see the pride of Chelmsford, Jack Eichel, suit up for an NHL game at TD Garden. Nobody knows exactly how good the Sabres will be or if this game will have any other meaning besides a divisional rivalry game, but the sight of the athletic, electric Eichel charged up for a game against his hometown team should be something special to watch. There should be some legendary Boston University hockey sweaters in the crowd for this one.


3. Saturday, Nov 21 against the Toronto Maple Leafs – This home date at TD Garden kicks off a set of four home-and-home games for the Bruins, a fun wrinkle in the schedule that will see them play two straight games against Toronto, Ottawa, Buffalo and Pittsburgh through the season. The Saturday night game also has the bonus of getting a look at Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock behind the Toronto bench, and whatever lineup the Leafs roll out after an expectedly busy summer full of wheeling and dealing. If anything this game also has the added bonus of likely being a win for the hometown team as a hockey date worthy of circling.


2. Sunday, April 3 at the Chicago Blackhawks – The 11:30 a.m. start in the Central Time zone is always a treat for Bruins fans, and a visit to the barn of the reigning Stanley Cup champs provides its own jolt of electricity for the Black and Gold. The fact this year’s moribund Bruins team found a way to play one of their best games of the season against the Blackhawks at the United Center in a late season Sunday matinee tells you that the players will be jacked up for this one. It’s also got NBC network game written all over it, so that just adds to the goodness of it all.


1. Friday, Jan. 1 against the Montreal Canadiens – The Bruins will face the Habs in the first week of the season with a Saturday night home game, and that will be a treat in and of itself amid a three-game home stand to start the year. But it’s all about the outdoor showdown vs. the Canadiens that will be the crown jewel of NBC’s hockey coverage, and has become the premiere event during the NHL regular season. The setting will be dynamite at the home of the New England Patriots, and the city of Boston is very deserving as the first NHL city to get a chance to host a second Winter Classic. Even better, the Bruins face the Canadiens five times next season and don’t see them on the second night of back-to-back games in any of those Northeast Division tilts. Now, that is an NHL regular season schedule that Bruins fans can get behind.

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

TAMPA BAY – It certainly might not be the shape they envisioned themselves being in when these late season games arrived against the President’s Trophy favorites in Tampa Bay, but the Bruins are bracing for a showdown with the high-powered Lightning either way. 

The Bruins stand just four points behind the Bolts with one game in hand, and mathematically they absolutely have a shot of catching and surpassing the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with three games remaining against them in the season’s final month. But realistically it’s got to be considered a long shot at this point with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk all out for Saturday night’s meeting with Tampa, and Bergeron and McAvoy expected to potentially miss all three of their divisional scraps. 

Coming off a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers and at the end of a week-long, four-game road trip, the Bruins know they’re going to need to tighten things up against a Lightning team they can’t match firepower with in their weakened state. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of just playing the game in front of us, and not getting too far ahead, too high or too low. We’ve got the best team in the National Hockey League, arguably, at home and rested [in front of us],” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We look forward to the challenge. They’re a high-scoring team, so we talked about that with our goaltenders and our ‘D’ today. We better be ‘on’ because they’ll be coming. Our forwards are going to have to help out in that area and make sure we’re reloading well, and keep getting pucks at the net. 

“We didn’t finish [against Florida] but it wasn’t because of lack of effort or lack of pucks at the net. That part of our game is trending pretty well offensively. I think you’re going to have score to a certain extent against this team because you’re not going to shut them down completely. That’s our game plan for whoever is going to be in the lineup. They’ve got to be ready for it because that’s how it works, and that’s how it’s worked all year long for us. We need the guys in there to do their part and do it well.”

Certainly the Bruins could still do some offensive damage with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak still intact on their top line, and David Krejci and Rick Nash also still developing their chemistry on the second line. Torey Krug also came through feeling healthy at practice on Friday after soaking up 26 plus minutes of ice time in the loss to Florida, so they’ll also have some puck-moving and offensive pop on the back end as well.

But it may come down to the Chara-less defense and Tuukka Rask to step up and go into shutdown mode against the Lightning if they’re looking to really push up on the Lightning, and make this a horse race for the Atlantic Division down the stretch. Not to mention, it would be a psychological swing for both teams if the Bruins could take down a rested, relatively healthy Tampa Bay hockey club with their undermanned, injury-ravaged bunch. 

That in and of itself should be plenty of motivation for a Bruins team that’s got their sights and set on bigger and better things this spring with the Lightning expected to be one of the big obstacles standing in their way.


Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while jacked and pumped about that Infinity War trailer. Wow. 


*Credit here for something outside the box and clear hockey satire while looking far into the NHL’s crystal ball where the new expansion team is called the Seattle Slippery Seals, and Brad Marchand is the head of the NHLPA. That is quite a twist at the end of the movie right there. 


*The Hockey Central crew debates whether they would want John Tavares or Tyler Seguin as a player to build their team around. Seguin is having a solid year (with the end of his contract coming into view), but I’m going with Tavares all day long. I think he’s more of a competitor and a reliable player along with an equitable level of talent, and that counts for quite a bit in team-building. 


*It’s good to see the PHWA decide to make public the ballots of all NHL Awards starting at the end of this season. It’s something I voted in favor of and already did annually as I think transparency is something we always ask for from those we cover, so it should never be something we shy away from. 


*The Flyers have hit the skids again after pushing themselves into playoff view. This has been such a streak team over the last couple of years. 


*Pro Hockey Talk says that the Montreal Canadiens need to take a long look into the mirror before they move on from this season. I couldn’t agree more. 


*For something completely different: I feel badly for my kids that Toys R us is liquidating as a company, and the stores will be closing. It’s getting to the point where there will be no more brick and mortar toy stores for kids to visit, and that’s something from my youth experience that they’re going to miss out on. Frankly, it’s kind of sad.