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.

Bruins go home empty-handed on NHL Awards night

Bruins go home empty-handed on NHL Awards night

The Bruins didn’t take home any hardware at the NHL Awards show on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, but appropriately one of their youthful players was recognized among the league’s best and brightest. Rookie D-man Charlie McAvoy was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team along with New Jersey Devils D-man Will Butcher, forwards (Islanders) Mat Barzal, (Canucks) Brock Boeser and (Coyotes) Clayton Keller and Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros.

The 20-year-old McAvoy finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting as well behind Barzal, Boeser, Keller and Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor, but the rookie D-man didn’t get any first-place votes on ballots across the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association). 

Patrice Bergeron finished third in the Selke Trophy voting behind Selke winner Anze Kopitar and Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier while going for his record-breaking fifth Selke Trophy. While it might be a little shocking to see No. 37 finish third based on his season and his overall two-way prowess, he did miss 22 percent of the regular season (18 out of 82 games) and some voters may have dinged him a bit because of that. 

Likewise, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy finished a distant second in the Jack Adams Award voting behind Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant. In any other season, Cassidy’s job leading the Bruins to 112 points in his first full year behind the Boston bench would have been a shoo-in for the coaching award. Instead, it deservedly went to Gallant after guiding the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to a playoff spot and eventually all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Don Sweeney also finished fourth in the GM of the Year voting just behind the three finalists for the award, a clear recognition from those around the league for the job he’s done turning things around in Boston over the last few seasons. Zdeno Chara (Norris), David Pastrnak (a first place Lady Byng vote, no less), Bergeron (Byng and Hart Trophy), Tuukka Rask (Vezina), Jake DeBrusk (Calder) and Brad Marchand (Selke and Hart Trophy) all received at least single votes on award ballots in a pretty strong Black and Gold representation across the board. 

A positive thought for all the Bergeron backers that felt he got robbed this season: It was the NHL-record seventh consecutive Selke Trophy finalist appearance for Bergeron on Wednesday night, and there certainly should be several more chances for No. 37 to win again and add to a resume that looks more and more Hall of Fame-worthy with each passing season.


Cassidy says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

File photo

Cassidy says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

As the free agency period of July 1 inches closer, the hype machine for 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk will grow more and more frenzied for teams like the Bruins.

And coach Bruce Cassidy gladly added to it on Tuesday in Las Vegas, telling reporters assembled for the NHL Awards that the Russian winger would be “a nice fit” for the Black and Gold. 

“Yeah, that would be interesting . . . you never want to speculate,” Cassidy said to reporters in Vegas during his press availability as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. “You can’t get too far ahead . . . he’s a top-six guy, he can play left and right wing, he’s a big body. He’d be a nice addition. I am sure any team would say that right now. 

“He’s going to make your team better, and I think that’s what you always look at as a coach, and fitting [talented players] in is the easy part. The tough part is getting those types of players.”


The Bruins will be among a handful of teams vying for Kovalchuk, who spend the last five seasons playing in the KHL after bolting the New Jersey Devils and the NHL after the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season. Even at his advanced NHL age, the expectation is that Kovalchuk can still have an impact offensively even if he’s not exactly the same player who posted 37 goals and 83 points in his last full season in Jersey six years ago. 

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound winger still has the big shot, the scoring ability, the size and the game-breaking skills that made him a former first overall pick in the NHL draft, and it may just be that he has more left in his tank than the younger Rick Nash. Clearly there was a concussion that played a big part in Nash’s time in Boston, but he also didn’t look like the explosive scoring ability was still there like it was in the Columbus/New York power forward’s younger years. 

The Bruins haven’t yet locked in a time when they’ll make their pitch to Kovalchuk’s camp, but it’s expected to happen ahead of the July 1 opening of free agency. Kovalchuk's representatives have already had meetings with teams on the West Coast like the Kings and Sharks. It’s expected that Kovalchuk, 35, be looking at a shorter-term deal making something close to the $6.67 annual salary he was being paid by the Devils when he departed the NHL. 

If Kovalchuk were to land in Boston, he’d fill a need for secondary scoring behind the big guns of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.He would allow the Bruins to keep their top forward line intact while filling a hole on the second line right wing alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. 

With the news that next season’s salary cap is going to be in the $79-80 million range, the Bruins will also have somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million in cap space for their offseason shopping list. That should give them plenty of room to sign Kovalchuk to a short-term deal and still address the other openings on their NHL roster, including third-line center and a backup goaltender. Still, Kovalchuk would be the big fish, and that’s why the talk about him is front and center.