We're through 43 games, and the Boston Bruins find themselves right in the thick of the playoff race. This is pretty much where fans expected the team to be after last season's great run, which ended in a second round ousting by the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Bruins have 39 games left on the schedule until the playoffs start and if they want to find themselves in the playoffs and as a high seed then they have to play great down the stretch. They can't play down to weaker teams and expect to make the playoffs.
After looking at the schedule I've found five games that will define the second half of the Bruins season and determine whether they are contenders for the Stanley Cup or just pretenders.
5. Bruins vs. Sharks: January 14, 2010
Just like in years past the San Jose Sharks are one of the best teams in the league. With the addition of Danny Heatly, the Sharks are right near the top of the Western Conference and a threat to win the Stanley Cup. That is why this is such a big game for the Bruins.
While it isn't a conference game, this one will go a long way in determining whether or not the Bruins have a real shot at doing something in April and May. The Bruins also have payback on their mind after getting beat by San Jose last year.
4. Bruins vs. Capitals: April 11, 2010
This is the last game of the regular season for the Bruins and will be showed on NBC. The Bruins and Capitals were at the top of the conference for the most part of last year, but both had disappointing playoffs.
This year the Caps are once again near the top of the Eastern Conference and have high hopes come playoff time. They will undoubtedly be one of the teams the Bruins will have to knock off if they want to go the Stanley Cup Finals. The game could also have an impact on what seed the Bruins get as each will be battling for home ice advantage for the playoffs.
3. Bruins vs. Canadiens: March 13, 2010
This is the final matchup of the regular season between the Bruins and Canadiens, and will have as much fireworks as always, especially since the two points will be key for playoff seedings.
The Canadiens have gotten the better of the Bruins in their first two matchups and the B's will be out for revenge. The two are also chasing the Sabres for first place in the Northeast Division and will both want the two points if they want to be able to catch the Sabres.
2. Penguins vs. Bruins: March 18, 2010
This matchup comes just five days after the Canadiens game and is one of the biggest left on the schedule for the Bruins. The B's are just five points back of the Penguins right now and if the season were to end today the two would be facing off against each other in the playoffs, with the Penguins having home ice advantage.
That is why this game is so big. Right now it would appear as though these two might be facing each other in the first round of the playoffs, and both would love to have home ice advantage. If the Bruins want to catch up with the Penguins, then this is a game they must win.
1. Sabres vs. Bruins: April 8, 2010
Of the 39 games left on the schedule this game is with a doubt the biggest. The Bruins and Sabres have been the two best teams in the Northeast Division and although the Bruins have gotten the better of the Sabres in their first two meeting, the Sabres still lead the division by seven points.
This game is the third to last game for the Bruins and the last divisional game. It could end up determining who wins the Northeast Division and who gets the higher seed in the playoffs. That will be huge since the Bruins could end up as a one to a three seed or as far down as a six or a seven seed.
These are the five biggest games left on the schedule for the Boston Bruins. While these are the five biggest games every game is important for the Bruins. For a team that hasn't won the cup in 37 years they have a great chance this year they just have to play good hockey and do it at the right time.