By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_
No more Maple Leafs, no more Lightning, no more Canadiens. The NHL has confirmed four brand new divisions for the upcoming season, the North, East, Central, and West. The Bruins will set up shop in the very tough East division. That division will consist of: the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Washington Capitals. Instead of seeing the usual Metropolitan division teams three times a year, the Bruins will play every team at least eight times and will certainly get a whole lot more familiar with a lot more teams. Here are a few matchups I’m looking forward to seeing.
New York Rangers
The long rivalry between these two teams will have a chance to renew itself a bit this season. I always love the matinee games, the Bruins and Rangers with Doc Emeric calling the hell out of the game. And while I’ll certainly miss Doc’s calls this year, this Original 6 rivalry still has a lot to give.
The Rangers are going to be an entertaining team to watch this year. GM Jeff Gorton has put together a roster full of young, up and coming talent at each and every position. They already have Artemi Panarin coming off of the best season of his already impressive career, now being joined by the number one overall pick Alexis Lafreniere and a full season of one of the best young goaltenders in the league, Igor Shesterkin. The talent does not stop there.
While he is no Brian Leetch defensively, Anthony Deangelo can drive an offense from the back-end, and Adam Fox’s name should be up there just under the likes of Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes when talking about the defensemen of the future. Kaapo Kakko still has a lot to prove after his somewhat disappointing freshman campaign, but he has all the talent in the world to have a big year. And who can forget about their number one center Mika Zibanijad who quietly had one of the best years in the entire league? Add a few solid depth pieces like a revitalized Ryan Strome and the physical Brendan Lemieux, and the Rangers will be a force to be reckoned with.
Eight games between the Broadstreet Bullies and the Big Bad Bruins? Sign me up. The two sides certainly don’t have the physical pedigrees they used to, but there is a lot of talent on all sides of this matchup. The Flyers have an excellent mix of seasoned veterans and impactful youth at forward, at defense, and of course, in goal. Carter Hart has not looked out of place a single time in his short NHL career. He is already a bonafide starting goalie at the young age of 22, and it’s not hard to project the Alberta native as a future Vezina winner.
I’m very interested to see if, when, and how Nolan Patrick comes back. The former 2nd overall pick has had moderate success in his first two seasons but missed all of last year with a migraine disorder. Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, and Oskar Lindblom should all improve on their young careers up front, and I’m a huge fan of their back end. Philippe Myers and Travis Sanheim are two defensemen that tend to go under the radar but are excellent young players, while Ivan Provorov continues to mold into a number one defenseman. Shayne Gostisbehere needs a big bounce-back season, but the addition of Erik Gustafsson should lessen the blow if Ghost doesn’t return to form.
And then, of course, there are the veterans upfront. Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny have developed into Philly’s very own version of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and we all know how oh so silky Claude Giroux is. Add Jakub Voracek, Kevin Hayes, and James Van Riemsdyk to the mix, and you have a profound forward core. Lots of good games in store.
Bergeron vs. Crosby is always a marvel to see when the two matchups. Two of the most prolific two-way forwards of all time facing off is a sight we don’t know how much longer we may see. The veteran core remains strong in Pittsburgh, with players like Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang holding down the fort, but GM Jim Rutherford has done a bit of a roster turnover this offseason (as he usually does).
Justin Schultz, Matt Murray, and Patric Hornqvist have moved on to other teams, but General Manager Jeremy Rutherford was able to pick up physical defenseman Michael Matheson and, in my opinion, one of the better pick-ups of the entire offseason, Kasperi Kapanen. Bruins fans saw how dynamic the Finnish forward was with the Maple Leafs, and I think his talent will only be multiplied by playing with Sidney Crosby. Throw Jake Guentzel on that line, and you have a trio that can score at will while also playing excellent hockey in all three zones. It will be interesting to see how Tristian Jarry can do in a full season as a starting goalie, but with Brian Dumoulin, Marcus Pettersson, and John Marino playing in front of him, I would not be surprised to see Jarry have a lot of success in this league.
I’m (sort of) excited to see an Alex Ovechkin one-timer on a more regular basis (sorry, Tuukka), and the Devils youth will be a joy to see. However, I am just not excited to play the Islanders. At all. I will claw my eyes out every game because of their play style and how many 2015 draft tweets I will see. But at the end of the day, I’m just excited to see the Bs take the ice again; I’ll even take 82 games against the Islanders.