The Boston Bruins 2021 abbreviated 56-game regular season NHL schedule is now out. But is it more Merry Christmas or Bah Humbug!?
I’ll leave that to the puck prognosticators and schedule savants who enjoy being Beantown Scrooges. However, here’s what I can tell you: the B’s better make some New Year’s Resolutions to all phases of team play or else those “January Jitters” may hit the ice before the first month’s out.
That being said, let’s break down what the former turning-point now opening-month schedule looks like for a B’s team that, thanks to a *COVID-conscious realignment of divisions based on geography, will have to play some of their toughest opponents regularly if not consecutively all season long.
*From the official Boston Bruins / NHL press release on December 23rd:
“Due to COVID-19 safety precautions and traveling restrictions, the NHL has instituted a new divisional realignment for the 2020-21 season. The Bruins will be competing in a new “East Division” with the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. The Bruins will play a 56-game regular season schedule, facing each team in their division eight times.
The top four teams from each division will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the first two rounds will feature intra-divisional play. Once a single team advances from each division, the four qualifying teams will be re-seeded for the final two rounds to determine a Stanley Cup Champion.”
ON A BEDEVILED ISLAND
The B’s first three games of the new season offer a solid, almost pre-season-esque match-up of New Jersey and New York newness.
On the road, the Bruins will get to take their 2020 shoulda/coulda/woulda won the Stanley Cup angst out on one of the worst teams in the league (you know, in terms of W’s, L’s and Points last year): the Devils. From there, they’ll get the increasingly more-competitive — AND higher playoff finishing — Islanders before heading back to Boston.
These are actually three great early-season games to “get a few games” under their B-spoked black n’ gold belts before battling some of hockey’s big boys — their new division “rivals” in Philly, Pittsburgh and Washington.
While the Devils will look to come out of the 2021 gates much stronger and with much more competitiveness than they did last year, the Isles will look to prove their almost-Cup-returning series against Tampa Bay wasn’t a fluke (like I said, they faired better than the B’s). This is exactly the type of measuring-stick test you want with barely any time to prep for ’21 play that counts!
PENGUINS CAN’T FLY
Nor do “Flyers” use pens! One of those is true and the other is completely pretend. And if the B’s don’t want to look like pretenders at home, they’ll need to carry whatever momentum they hopefully started on the road against New Jersey and New York and bring it for Philly and Pittsburgh.
The Bruins will play two against the Flyers first, then two against the Pens. Neither will be back-to-back so that should work in the B’s advantage, especially if Bruce Cassidy is still trying to figure out his Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak time-splitting, crease-tending goalie duties.
Boston was arguably on one of its hottest hockey-playing streaks of consistency in the past decade when the season was abruptly cut-short by COVID right after the team’s impressive 2-0 shutout over Philly. So remembering that magic may be just what the doctor ordered to get things going in 2021!
WASHINGTON “LIES” AHEAD
While George Washington cannot tell a lie, I’d be lying if I said the Bruins will be able to win the majority of their games in 2021 against the Capitals. I just don’t see that happening… even with the Caps’ questions in goal.
January 30th is the first of EIGHT match-ups between the two (that’s right… remember, the B’s play each team in the new “EAST” Division eight times, which is great because the Devils and Sabres are there… but kinda sucks with the Caps, Pens and Flyers nipping at your toes like a jacked-up Jack Frost).
If the B’s can somehow go “50-50” against Washington this season, it won’t be a wash at all. It’ll feel more like a win. And with truly EVERY win and POINT mattering more than it ever has before, Boston’s 2021 season may be it’s most challenging yet.
To quote Tiny Tim, good ole Scrooge’s buddy, “God Bless us, everyone” this year!