Nick Goss

Tough schedule gives Bruins chance to make statement into All-Star break

The Bruins have a great chance to widen their lead atop the division and Eastern Conference.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The NHL schedule makers didn't do the Boston Bruins any favors for the month of January.

The B's just finished a stretch of eight games in 14 days. They came out of it pretty well, too, losing just once in regulation and going 4-1-3 overall.

The Bruins have one more grueling stretch in their schedule before the NHL All-Star break. Beginning Thursday, the B's will play six games in 12 days, including a couple matchups versus quality opponents such as the Colorado Avalanche, Winnipeg Jets, Philadelphia Flyers and Carolina Hurricanes.

Luckily for the Bruins, the first four of these six games are at TD Garden, where Boston holds a 13-3-3 record.

Why is this stretch before the All-Star break so important for the B's?

It's an opportunity to make a statement by beating a couple of the best teams in the NHL, while also giving them a chance to pick up some valuable points against a few of the league's bottom-feeders. In essence, the Bruins can widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference standings and give themselves a strong cushion entering the second half of the regular season.

The B's currently have just a three-point lead over the Florida Panthers for first place in the division. They also lead the Metropolitan Division-leading New York Rangers by three points for the No. 1 seed in the conference.

Thursday night's matchup against the Avalanche is a great one. The Avalanche have been perennial contenders for a while and won the Stanley Cup in 2022. They beat the Bruins in a hard-fought overtime game last week, and they've won eight of their last 10 games. Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon is quickly rising up the Hart Trophy candidate rankings with 14 points in eight January games (72 points on the season).

The B's will host the Winnipeg Jets next Monday. These teams played Dec. 22 in Winnipeg, where the Jets dominated the Bruins 5-1. It's the worst loss of the season for the B's so far, and the only time they've been beaten by more than three goals.

Winnipeg has been one of the surprise teams of the campaign. They didn't trade No. 1 center Mark Scheifele and star goalie Connor Hellebuyck and instead re-signed both to lucrative long-term deals. Now they have the best record in the league with 62 points (29-10-4) entering Thursday. The Jets are 9-1-0 in their last 10 games.

The Bruins will play the first of three regular season games versus the Carolina Hurricanes next Wednesday. The Hurricanes started the season slower than expected, but they've picked it up recently with a 7-2-1 record over their last 10 games. Carolina is always a tough team to play against, and Boston knows that better than just about anyone. These games often include a playoff intensity, so this matchup will be a great test for the B's.

Boston's final game before the All-Star break is against the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 27. It'll be the first of three Bruins-Flyers games in the regular season. The Flyers enter Thursday with a four-game win streak and have climbed all the way to second place in their division.

Beating these four teams would not only send a strong message to the rest of the league that the Bruins can beat this caliber of opponent on a consistent basis, it would also give the B's tremendous confidence entering the All-Star break.

Bruins vs. Jets
Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 22, 2023; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck (37) stops Boston Bruins forward Johnny Beecher (19) during the third period at Canada Life Centre. Mandatory Credit: Terrence Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Another pre-All Star break objective for the B's should be taking care of business against the inferior opponents on their schedule over the next two weeks. The B's play the Montreal Canadiens (Jan. 20) and Ottawa Senators (Jan. 25), who sit sixth and eighth, respectively, in the division.

If the Bruins could extend their lead in the division to eight or more points by the All-Star break, that would give them enough of a cushion to dial back some of the minutes their veterans are playing. The B's have relied on their top-six forwards and top-four defensemen quite a bit so far this season in regards to scoring and ice time.

The Bruins will obviously try to win every game post All-Star break. All of these guys are professionals who are highly competitive. But a strong position atop the standings would allow them the flexibility of giving veterans a few extra nights off and playing some of the rookies more minutes. This would keep the top players as fresh as possible for the playoffs.

Contact Us