(Photo Credit: Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)
By Mike Cratty Twitter: @Mike_Cratty
The Boston Bruins host the Nashville Predators in their first game of the 2017-2018 regular season on October 5. Following that game, they have some games that are certainly winnable. Their schedule features teams like the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche within the first five games.
The Bruins boast a lineup that is sure to play with quicker pace and some new faces. In a league where speed and puck-moving have become so important over recent years, this is exciting. What makes it even more exciting is that this new look Bruins team will feature draft talent such as Charlie McAvoy in his first full year, Anders Bjork, as well as an assortment of others. The logjam of players fighting for roster spots is still pretty crazy so I won’t say much more on that topic, fans will get a better idea leading up to October 5 when the Predators come to Boston.
Nashville comes to Boston to open up
The Nashville Predators will be a good test to start, without a doubt. It is worth noting that they could be without two-time Stanley Cup champion, free-agent addition center Nick Bonino, as well as a talented defenseman in Ryan Ellis for sure until sometime in January. The former Penguin, Bonino will look for his third Stanley Cup in a row whenever he returns from injury. Nashville will be back with a vengeance after falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins this past season in their first cup appearance in franchise history.
The Nashville Predators became an easy team to root for in the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs due to the electric atmosphere that spectators brought to every game. The team fed off it and gave hockey fans an excellent showing. It’s definitely fair to expect that much of the same excitement and energy will be carried into the 2017-2018 season, and they could very well see solid regular season success this time around. Luckily for the Bruins, they won’t have to enter Nashville’s home barn right off the bat.
A home-and-home with Colorado
Four days after the season opener, the Colorado Avalanche come to Boston to begin a home-and-home on October 9. Part two will be at Colorado on October 11. The Avs were the worst team in the NHL last year with a dreadful 22-56-4 record and awful special teams numbers. They weren’t tremendously active but should have a different looking lineup in part due to the additions of players like Colin Wilson, Jonathan Bernier, Nail Yakupov.
Additions aside, there is a very good chance that the Avalanche will sit in the bottom-five of the league again, maybe not dead last though. The Bruins need to take full advantage of these games and help start the season off on the right foot.
Off to the Desert
Game four of the regular season comes around at Arizona on October 14. Coyotes general manager John Chayka has made a name for himself as someone who is not afraid to make moves in his short tenure so far. Their 2017 first-round pick, seventh overall, starting goalie in Mike Smith and a couple good young defensemen in Connor Murphy and Anthony DeAngelo were some of the pieces moved out. Bonafide players like Derek Stepan and Niklas Hjalmarsson were some of the players acquired. It was a busy offseason in Arizona, and the team looks to be one of the most improved on paper. What they can do on the ice is a different story.
2016 first-round defender Jakob Chychrun is currently slated to start the season on injured reserve. Number one defender Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s status to start the season is currently unknown after recently suffering a knee injury.
Arizona is a young team to monitor and one that may find themselves fairly close to a playoff spot after a prolific offseason. They are a team that is sure to play with a good amount of speed and feature exciting young players like Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome, Max Domi, and Christian Dvorak. This could be a tough game for the Bruins with a new look Arizona team that is on the rise. It won’t be as easy as it may have seemed last year for the Bruins, as they won both matchups against Arizona.
The first matchup between the Boston Bruins and the Vegas Golden Knights. Bruins radio legend Dave Goucher is the first TV play-by-play guy in the history of the franchise and former Bruins defenseman “Sheriff” Shane Hnidy will be doing the color commentary. I wrote about that the first Golden Knights broadcasting duo back mid-August.
The Golden Knights don’t appear to have a tremendously talented roster on paper, but as a new team, you never know what they will bring to the table. They could surprise some fans this year, they could end up with a lottery pick, who knows?
NHL.com currently has 11 defensemen listed on their roster. Colin Miller was snatched up by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft from the Bruins so this will be his first time playing his old team as a Golden Knight. With 11 guys on the back end, it will be worth monitoring how Miller fares on a crowded back end.
The first matchup between the Golden Knights and the Bruins will surely be an interesting and historic one. These first five matchups will help give an early look at what to expect from this Bruins team.