Thanks to the lockout, the new CBA, and the divisional realignments that have come from the chaos of last season’s negotiations, we’ll get to see an awfully interesting mix in the early games of the 2013-14 NHL season. The Bruins will be in the new “Atlantic Division”(so long Northeast). The Atlantic will be home to Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay and Toronto. (I still say we should have gotten the Islanders and the Rangers.)
Thanks to last year’s negotiations, there will be a new system in place that guarantees that every team plays in every NHL arena at least once this year. We’ll get to see every team play once at the TD Garden. On the Brightside, all of our far flung members of Bruins Nation will have an opportunity to see the Black and Gold serve up some defensive minded two-way hockey at least once at their local ice.
I’d like to take a quick tour of some of these early games and hopefully predict how things will go for the Bruins.
Opening Night- October 3rd. The Bruins will hoist the Eastern Conference Championship banner (to cheers and some lament.) that night. The Bruins will be taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning may be one the biggest Jekyll and Hyde teams out there. They’ve got a decent blueline, and alright forwards, but they’re still rough when it comes to defending the crease. Their presumptive number one goalie, Anders Lindback went 10-10-1 last season with a .902 save percentage. They brought in Ben Bishop from the Ottawa Senators to help (Bishop has some Hockey East credentials from his time at U Maine.), but it’s unclear how much of a change this will be. I see the Bruins winning this one easily.
October 5th – The Bruins will stay at home to take on the Detroit Red Wings. This should be a great game for the fans, and the Red Wings will do all they can to bring two points for their side. We’ll see how the new lines gel (With Iginla likely going to the Krejci line, and Eriksson being paired with Bergeron and Marchand.), and they’ll give Henrik Zetterberg and the Detroit squad a rough time of it. (They’ll face the Red Wings again at home nine days later.) My guess is that the B’s and the Wings will split those two games.
October 10th – We’ll get to see how Nate McKinnon does on NHL ice, and how well goalie legend Patrick Roy can coach. The Colorado Avalanche will come to the TD Garden that night. While McKinnon does bring extra speed to Colorado, the Avalance plays a watered-down version of Pittsburgh’s explosive offense, and we saw how the Bruins handled it in the playoffs by sweeping them four straight. (Then again, the Bruins lost all the regular season games by one goal.) I’ll give this one to the Bruins as well.
October 12th – This would be Nathan Horton‘s homecoming since he signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He will be out for the first half of the season recovering from shoulder surgery he had a few weeks ago. Columbus is one of those teams that is rebuilding for the future, and while they may throw us a few surprises, a healthy Bruins team will sweep them from the ice with limited difficulty.
Finally, got a give a game to the puck….bunnies. For all the pink hat lovers out there, don’t despair. Tyler Seguin will be back in the TD Garden November 5th. He’ll be in a Dallas Stars uniform, and he’ll likely be wearing #91. (For some of the more serious fans, we’ll get to see Rich Peverley as well.) The Stars gave up a solid player like Eriksson so they could have someone like Seguin. A lot of Bruins Nation were split on the Seguin trade. In the short term, I think Eriksson is a good fit for us. Time will tell if Seguin can grow up and be the elite player a lot of see him as. (Or will he come in to Dallas wearing the same clothes from two nights ago smelling like regret and the Deep Ellum party scene.)
My first NHL game was a Dallas Stars game, and I got a soft spot for them in my heart. (I still think Boston will wipe the floor with them though.)
This is going to be an exciting start to the season, and it looks like the Bruins could have a start that rivaled last year’s performance.