Aside from the shortened 56-game 2020-2021 NHL season, the division realignment is looking extremely different this year. The Boston Bruins will not be competing against its usual division this year. Unfortunately, we will not get to see the classic Bruins-Canadiens or Bruins-Leaf rivalries. On January 13th, the Bruins will partake in the East Division. The Bruins finished 1st place in the NHL with 100 points last season.
Boston Bruins – Buffalo Sabres
Normally, the Bruins and Sabres are in the same Atlantic division. Although the two teams may fall in the same division, they do not have that intense matchup like Bruins and Toronto. The Sabres have not won against the Bruins since December 2018. Jack Eichel led the Sabres with (36G, 42A) 78 points last season. He finished with a career-high of 36 goals. And there have been rumblings of Eichel wanting to jump ship for a shot at the Stanley Cup… or even a chance to play in the playoffs.
Honestly, I do not see the Sabres succeeding at all in this division. Minus the Sabres and the Bruins, the East consists of mostly the teams that play in the Metropolitan division. The Metropolitan is the toughest division and the Sabres do not have what it takes to compete. The team lacks offence and cannot depend upon Eichel and Jeff Skinner to score the majority of goals. In order to become a real cup contender, the team needs to find a solid goaltender as well. The Sabres have not made it to the Stanley Cup since 2011!
Boston Bruins – New Jersey Devils
In recent history, the Bruins and Devils games are normally a toss-up. The Bruins lost 3-2 in the shootout against the Devils last New Years Eve. Yet, prior to the loss, the Bruins won their last 4 games against the Devils. The Devils have been going through rebuilding over the last couple of seasons but they certainly do have young talents like forwards Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier.
I do expect Boston to come out on top for this series just because of a few reasons including losing key players and a rusty Devils team. The Devils lost two big names, Taylor Hall and Stanley Cup Champion Blake Coleman. Another big blow to the team is that they have not played a game since March. With COVID restrictions regarding athletic facilities, it is unlikely that the team will be up to par after missing so much ice time. Who knows though, the Devils fired Head Coach John Hynes and hired Lindy Ruff. Maybe Ruff will have some success in whatever lineup he decided to go with.
Boston Bruins – New York Islanders
Since 2017, the Bruins have had a great record over the Islanders. The spoked B team have won nine out of ten games against the orange and blue team. The Islanders, however, are definitely not a team to sleep on. Their top goal scores include names like Brock Nelson (26 G), Anders Lee (20G) and Mat Barzal (19G). Although the regular season and the playoffs are two completely different animals, the Islanders are definitely going to come back strong after losing in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
I do think that this series could potentially be challenging for the Bruins. The duo goalie between Seymon Varlamov and Thomas Greiss could cause some trouble for the Bruins’ offensive players. But then again, if David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand are healthy enough in time for when the team plays the Islanders, then maybe the Islanders will not be so fortunate.
Boston Bruins – New York Rangers
Now we are getting to the teams that will cause some agitation for the Bruins, starting off the with Rangers. These two teams may not be divisional rivals or have the intensity like the Rangers do with the Devils, but Bruins and Rangers are both in the Original Six. The Boston Bruins have won their four last games against the Rangers. But historically, these two teams have always battled it out.
The Bruins have superstar David Pastrnak but with Pasta recovering from surgery, Rangers’ Artmei Panarin may give the Bruins a run for their money. Panarin had his best season yet finishing with 95 points (32G, 63A) tying with David Pastrnak for 3rd in the league in terms of points. He was nominated as a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy and won the NHL’s Most Valuable Player for the season.
Boston Bruins – Philadelphia Flyers
The Bruins and Flyers have a rivalry dating back to the 70s when hockey was on a whole different level. And of course, when the Bruins won the Stanely Cup in 2011, they had swept the Flyers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. But that is the past, right? The Flyers have proved to be a serious Cup contender and finished in 6th place with 89 points last season.
Twenty-two-year old goalie, Carter Hart dominated the playoffs this past year. Although he only played two seasons in the NHL he is not a name to sleep on. Another name to watch out for is Selke Winner Sean Couturier. Couturier had a great season finishing with 59 points (22G, 37A). The Flyers beat the Bruins 4-1 in the round-robin series.
Boston Bruins – Pittsburgh Penguins
The Battle of the Black and Gold/Yellow! We have a matchup of some of the top names in the NHL. Although Pittsburgh is no longer the elite powerhouse they once have been back in the 2010s, the Bruins know better than to play at anything other than 100%. Boston and Pittsburgh have had their fair share in wins vs. loses. Pittsburgh won against their last matchup against Boston, and Boston won the prior two games.
Who to look out for? Evgeni Malkin (25G, 49A), Bryan Rust (27G, 29A), and Sidney Crosby (16G, 31A) are still dominating the team when it comes to points. As for younger talent, keep an eye out for Jake Guentzel (20G, 23A). Overall, Pittsburgh finished with 86 points in 7th place in the NHL.
Boston Bruins – Washington Capitals
This matchup will obviously be the most difficult for the B’s. The team’s record against the Capitals is not great. But it should be a great matchup between David Pastrnak and Alexander Ovechkin, the Co-winners of the Rocket Richard Trophy. The Bruins have only won against the Capitals TWICE since October 2014. Big yikes there. The Capitals have been a powerhouse and always been a huge challenge for the Bruins.
So what is it going to take? The Bergeron line cannot seem to crack at Ovechkin, Wilson, and Kuznetsov. With goaltender Braden Holtby now on the Vancouver Canucks, perhaps the Bruins will have better luck.
What are your thoughts?
Featured image courtesy of NHL.com
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