With a healthy amount of turnover on the Bruins roster heading into this season, there will be a number of regular season games with a little more on the line. Here are five games to circle on the calendar:
1) Oct. 17 at the Florida Panthers – This is the first chance the Bruins will have to face 39-year-old Tim Thomas as he attempts to revive his career with a Florida team that has as many question marks as he does. While his answers to questions about his exit from Boston will be fascinating, the game should also see Thomas' best since he was always in top form while trying to prove a point. The question is whether his supporting cast around him is good enough to help him prove that point. What hockey fans won't be transfixed by watching Thomas compete against his former teammates? It might even be enough to get Thomas to post something on Facebook, though nobody is holding their breath on that one.
2) Oct. 30 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins – It will be a return to the scene of the spanking where the Bruins took the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals on their way to a four-game romp. Matt Cooke is gone, but so many of the other players integral to Pittsburgh’s collapse (Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby) remain behind. There should be plenty of motivation from Pittsburgh’s end to make a statement after showing a lack of toughness during last year's playoffs. Above and beyond that, just about every regular season game between the Bruins and Penguins is exciting, entertaining hockey, and there’s no reason to think this will be any different.
3) Nov. 5 at home vs. the Dallas Stars – Bruins fans that always wanted to get the experience of going to a New Kids on the Block concert in the early 90’s should get that feel with 21-year-old Tyler Seguin’s first trip back home to Boston. It will also be the first time Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith will play against their former team, but one will be watching closely to see if any of Seguin’s former teammates have a point to prove to the talented youngster. If he gets the “Kessel treatment” then he’s going to be in for a world of pain. But don’t forget Seguin also had some of his best games against the team that traded his draft rights (Toronto) so he is more than capable of making the Bruins pay. Posting this now will also give Daisy Buchanan’s fair warning to stock up in advance of Seguin’s late night forays to the Newbury Street location.
4) Dec. 12 at Edmonton Oilers – It will take a few months to make it happen, but it will also be good to see a “C” on Andrew Ference’s Oilers sweater in competition against the Bruins. It will certainly be weird after Ference spent the last seven years in Boston, but there is little doubt he’s going to help a young, talented Oil crew make that next step toward the playoffs. He also won’t be backing from the challenge of showing his new teammates that his old Bruins ties were severed when he was allowed to walk away in free agency last summer. Take away the subplot involving Boston’s former alternate captain, and you still have a young team on the cusp of realizing their potential against an experienced, veteran hockey club that knows how to discourage a finesse team with physicality and rugged play. It will be a good battle of opposites in the chilly city of Edmonton just a couple of weeks before Christmas.
5) Feb. 4 at home vs. Vancouver – While the Canucks and Bruins have changed some personnel over the years, they still hate each other with many of the same players still wearing opposing sweaters. As long as the Sedin Twins, Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa and Roberto Luongo are drawing paychecks for Vancouver, the enmity and jealousy won’t be going anywhere. Boston hates the Canucks for their gutless style of play, and Vancouver hates the Bruins for usurping their best chance to hoist the Cup. It might not be as entertaining as the game two years ago that saw five Canucks players jump Shawn Thornton and Brad Marchand get suspended for bridging Sami Salo, but it still rates as one of the best regular season games to watch on the Boston schedule. Amazing that there isn’t one Bruins-Canadiens game on the list this season, but none of them were enough to upend Boston-Vancouver.