Top five games on the Bruins' 2016-17 schedule
TOP FIVE GAMES ON THE BRUINS' 2016-17 SCHEDULE
With the NHL Awards, the NHL Draft and the Bruins Development Camp all occuring in the last month, the release of the 2016-17 Bruins regular-season schedule at the end of June kind of flew under the radar.
And an interesting season it will be, with the Bruins under heavy pressure to prove that this is going to be different from the last couple of years. With that in mind, here are five games to circle on the regular-season calendar that you aren’t going to win to miss once the Bruins are back in full swing.
Tuesday, January 10: At St. Louis Blues
David Backes will be returning to St. Louis, where he was captain of the Blues for the last five years. (And who knows where Kevin Shattenkirk will be playing by that point?) It’s sure to be an emotional return for Backes, who was heavily involved with the team and the community. It won’t exactly be like Jarome Iginla returning to Calgary for the first time with the Bruins, but it might not be too far off.
So one would expect there is going to be a hero’s welcome for a very popular player on and off the ice . . . and perhaps a spark or two for Backes, who could be looking to show the Blues what they missed out on when they didn’t re-sign him. Certainly it should be a lot better than the blight on the schedule this game was was a couple of years ago, when the Blues lit up Malcolm Subban in his NHL debut at the Scottrade Center.
My best guess: Backes is going to be a popular figure in the B’s dressing room and his new teammates will play their butts off in this one, which should make it fun to watch.
Saturday, October 15: At Toronto Maple Leafs
This won’t be particularly heated, but there'll be a lot of hype in Toronto. Why? It's the Maple Leafs' home opener and the Air Canada Centre regular-season debut of No. 1 overall pick and Leafs savior Auston Matthews . . . provided he makes the team (wink, wink).
The Bruins open the season on a three-game road trip, and all three games will be the home opener of their opponent. Toronto will be starting Year No. 2 with Mike Babcock and Lou Lamoriello and should soon be a much tougher out around the league. This could also be a glimpse into just how much of a difference Frederik Andersen could make to Toronto between the pipes after being handed the starting job this summer.
There should be a different kind of electricity in the ACC house for this one, given that Matthews is the first bona-fide franchise center in Toronto since the prime days of Mats Sundin.
Thursday, January 5: Vs. Edmonton Oilers at TD Garden
Peter Chiarelli comes back to Boston for the second time since being fired as general manager of the Bruins, but this is more about what’s going to be happening on the ice. The Bruins will finally get their first look at wunderkind center Connor McDavid, who was injured for each of their two matchups against the Oilers last season. And everybody will get to see the odd sight of Milan Lucic patrolling around the TD Garden ice in an Edmonton sweater.
Given the very real makeover of the Oilers roster this summer and the addition of another top-5 pick in thhe draft, this should also be a pretty exciting, entertaining game between a pair of teams perfectly willing to play high-octane offense with the talent to back it up. I’d say this one will be worth the price of admission.
Also, best of luck to hard-edge forwards Matt Beleskey or David Backes if they attempt to light up McDavid, since he now has Big Looch at his side. Unless, of course, the NHL decides to completely ban fighting between now and the beginning of January.
Saturday, October 22: Vs. Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden
There'll be no more P.K. Subban as part of the rivalry, and we all mourn the loss of one of the best, most charismatic villains in the Boston/Montreal rivalry. Renewing hostilities with Subban will have to wait for the home-and-road meetings against the Nashville Predators.
But a new chapter to Bruins/Canadiens could start to be written on this night. Big, punishing defenseman Shea Weber and truculent troublemaker Andrew Shaw will no doubt be looking to make their respective presences felt quickly. As one hockey person said to me over the summer, the Habs “will be much tougher to play next season” after getting Weber and Shaw, not to mention that Brendan Gallagher is now fully healthy. So this could be a return to the days where you could feel the hate between the B's and Habs, after a year when hockey’s best rivalry took a turn for the boring.
The Bruins should also still be looking for payback for last January’s embarrassment at the Winter Classic at Gillette Stadium. Maybe this will be a good time to start looking to hurt the Habs’ feelings.
Thursday, January 26: Vs. Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden
The Stanley Cup champs make their first visit of the season to Boston, the second time they'll face off against the Penguins five days.
The games against the Penguins are always fun because they feature local guys in head coach Mike Sullivan, forward Nick Bonino and Melrose native Connor Sheary. And then there's Phil Kessel; perhaps there'll also be a ceremony where Bruins fans -- many of whom never thought he'd win a Stanley Cup in his career -- have to pay tribute to Phil the Thrill. But beyond all that, Pittsburgh is also the example the Bruins point to in hopes of a quick turnaround. The Pens went from moribund underachiever to legitimate Cup threat once they changed coaches and injected more youth into their lineup last season.
Either way, there should be a little extra boost in the building when Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and the rest of the Penguins come to town. It seems like the games between the Bruins and the Penguins are always pretty good, given the personnel involved.