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.