By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter! @zcarlone21
It’s only a matter of time until the Boston Bruins hit the ice for the official start of a full 82-game schedule. The 2020-21 regular season didn’t gear up until mid-January due to the worldwide pandemic and teams played in empty arenas. In 2021-22, the Bruins will get the chance to play 82 games across the United States and Canada, something that couldn’t have been done last season, with countless fans in the arena. The Bruins regular season kicks off on October 16th at TD Garden against the Dallas Stars.
For now, preseason games are underway, and they will continue to help determine what players Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wants on his team for a competitive stretch of games leading into the playoffs. Getting off to a good start in the first game of an 82-game season is always a significant step forward but it isn’t necessarily a bad sign if you happen to lose. Teams get hot in the later months of the season and ride their momentum into the playoffs. For the Bruins, however, the season opener shouldn’t be taken lightly. Inside the locker room, they know this has to be a successful year.
Players are hopefully shaking off the rust during the preseason. It’s truly a guess as to what we’ll see on the ice for the Bruins on October 16th but it will be a different-looking team than we’re used to. Free-agent Tuukka Rask, who isn’t expected to play with the Bruins until later in the season, won’t be the starter on opening night for the first time since the 2011 season opener. Longtime Bruins center David Krejci isn’t on the team anymore. The Bruins signed a new goalie and five new players, all of whom are expected to be regulars in the lineup during the season. While we get closer to opening night, let’s revisit some of the best performances from the team during season openers in years past.
October 4th, 2001 vs. The Mighty Ducks
Former Bruin and current Bruins general manager Don Sweeney led all Boston players in time-on-ice, logging 22:35 on his team’s way to a 4-2 victory to start the 2001-02 season. Bruins defenseman Nick Boynton scored the first goal of the season for the Bruins early in the first period and the other Bruins goals came from forwards Joe Thornton, Brian Rolston, and Sergei Samsonov. Ducks forward Paul Kariya tallied the first of 32 goals he would score that season. Bruins goaltender Byron Dafoe made 21 saves on 23 shots and collected his first of 35 wins he would earn during the 2001-02 season.
October 9th & 10th, 2010 vs. Phoenix Coyotes
The Bruins started their historic season playing two games in Prague, Czech Republic against the Phoenix Coyotes. The first game didn’t go well, resulting in an 0-1-0 start for the team from a 5-2 loss to the Coyotes. However, former Bruins forward Nathan Horton scored the lone two goals, turning the wheels for what would be a fantastic season for the Bruins second-line and arguably the best line former Bruin David Krejci had ever been a part of for a whole season. The Bruins won the second game by a score of 3-0 with goals coming from former Bruins forwards Nathan Horton, Tyler Seguin, and Milan Lucic.
It was the start of a special season. Krejci finally had two productive wingers on his line in Horton and Lucic. Horton potted 26 goals and collected 53 points in the 2010-11 season. Lucic collected 30 goals and 62 points that season, both qualifying as career-highs. Not only was the Bruins second line productive but the whole Bruins roster was balanced and competitive. That start to the season and roster led by former Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and former Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas earned them a Stanley Cup championship over the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.
January 19th, 2013 vs. New York Rangers
A disagreement in the NHL for a new collective-bargaining agreement forced the league into a lockdown for the start of the 2012-13 season, but the league turned their heads and came to a deal for a shortened season shortly thereafter. The Bruins season started off with a 3-1 victory against the New York Rangers. Former Bruins forward Milan Lucic scored the season-opening goal at the tail-end of the first period, and former Bruins forward Daniel Paille and former defenseman Johnny Boychuck scored the other two goals for the black and gold. The win from Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask would launch the Bruins into a long run of successful hockey required to reach the Stanley Cup Final that season, only to lose the championship to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games.
October 13th 2016 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
Former Bruin David Backes took over as the team’s number one center with Patrice Bergeron sidelined, and the Bruins first line exploded. Backes played center between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in place of Bergeron, and each of the three forwards on that line collected two goals each after the Blue Jackets got out to a 2-0 lead in the first period.
The Bruins won the season opener by a score of 6-3. Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask made 28 saves on 31 shots and he would go on to win a career-high 37 games for the Bruins that season. Marchand collected a career-high in goals in 2016-17 with 39, and the offensive explosion in this game would be the start of a new best first line in the league after the eventual return of Bergeron.