Soak it in Boston fans, your Bruins are the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions. It truly was a memorable season full of heart stopping moments. With the upcoming season on the not so distant horizon, it is time for the Bruins to defend what they worked so hard to achieve.
The upcoming season promises to be an exciting one, as the Bruins look to be the first team to repeat as Stanley Cup Champions since the Detroit Red Wings won back to back titles in 1997 and 1998.
Here is a look at what promises to be the most exciting games for the Bruins in the 2011-2012 season.
A rematch of last year's Eastern Conference Finals in which Boston won in a thrilling seven games, Steven Stamkos and company will certainly have revenge on their mind. This is the first match-up of three between the Bruins and Lightning and a very good test early in the year for the Bruins. The Garden will certainly be buzzing when the Lightning return to the Garden for the first time since the Bruins took a 1-0 Game 7 decision to the Finals.
The Lightning were a surprise team last season, beating the Penguins and sweeping the Capitals to reach the Eastern Conference finals. Last season was a huge success for the Bolts, who look to improve on last season and challenge Washington for the Southeast Division title.
It will be interesting to see if veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson can continue on his postseason success or if the Lightning will need to look for other options in goal.
Although this is not the first time the Bruins and Penguins meet this upcoming season, it is the first time the Penguins come to the TD Garden. There is still a feeling in Boston that there is some unfinished business between the Bruins and Penguin Matt Cooke, who delivered that devastating hit on Marc Savard, who hasn't been the same since. Savard is likely looking at retirement after yet another concussion, this time suffered at the hands of former Bruin Matt Hunwick.
The Bruins and Penguins played some exciting games in the 2011 season, featuring some incredible third period comebacks by the Bruins. The success of the Penguins leans on the health of center Sidney Crosby, who suffered a season ending concussion in the Bridgestone 2011 NHL Winter Classic.
Look for a chorus of boo's whenever Matt Cooke steps onto the ice and some thrilling moments as these two Eastern Conference powerhouses step on the ice.
A battle of Stanley Cup Champions, the Bruins visit the Chicago Blackhawks in a much anticipated battle. The reason I put this game in the top five is the possibility of a fight night. On March 29, 2011, when the Blackhawks visited TD Garden, Bruins tough guy Shawn Thornton received an accidental skate to the face, just missing his eye. As Thornton left the ice to receive medical treatment, something was said on the Chicago bench, something obviously Shawn Thornton didn't like.
"If I ever find who it was, I'll deal with it my own way," Thornton said. It was later revealed Blackhawk Fernando Pisani was the one who "chirped" Shawn Thornton as he left the ice. Chicago enforcer John Scott had this to say on the matter.
“He’s Mr. Tough Guy and he’s trying to challenge Pisani ... I’ll kick the (bleep) out of him.”
Look for sparks to fly as these two teams meet for the only time in the regular season.
When the Dallas Stars came to the TD Garden on February 3, 2011, they provided perhaps the most exciting first period all season long. When the first period ended, the Bruins were leading 4-0 with four fights having occurred. This was the second brawl filled game between these two clubs in as many years, largely due to the fact that "Brave Steve Ott" as Jack Edwards calls him remains in the Dallas lineup.
The Stars missed the postseason by one game last season, but having lost superstar center Brad Richards to free agency, the Dallas Stars look to be a long shot for a postseason berth.
This New Year's Eve game is the first and only meeting of the year between these two clubs and bad blood still runs between them. We could see some New Year's fireworks when these two teams meet again after last year's game.
Opening night for the NHL and the Boston Bruins is on October 6, when the rival Philadelphia Flyers visit TD Garden for the first time since they were swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Flyers will no doubt have revenge on their mind after they were embarrassed by the Bruins in the playoffs. The raising of the Bruins championship banner should only fuel the Flyers drive.
The Flyers enter this season a different team, having traded away their top goal scorers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. The Flyers filled a huge hole in net by acquiring net minder Ilya Bryzgalov. This game is the first step for the Bruins in defending their Stanley Cup title.
Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins. What more can I say? Perhaps the best rivalry in all of professional sports, saying these two clubs hate each other would be an accurate statement. When the Bruins defeated the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, for the first time in franchise history, the Bruins came back from an 0-2 deficit. It took overtimes in Games 4 and 7 and a double overtime in Game 5.
The Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens have a home and home on October 27 and 29, with the Canadiens coming to the Garden first. The Canadiens have limped into the postseason these last two years and the hopes of this playoff bubble team rest on the hands of Carey Price.
Montreal is certainly eager for a chance to avenge last season's postseason loss to the Bruins and the Bruins need to be ready to match Montreal's intensity. Be sure to tune in when the Montreal French make their first trip to the Garden.
No surprise here, the Vancouver Canucks come in at number one. In a rematch of a thrilling Stanley Cup Finals, sparks will fly when the Canucks and Bruins meet for the only time this upcoming season. In a Stanley Cup Final that saw biting, fighting, suspensions and more, the Bruins and Canucks will go at it one more time. It will be interesting to see if the Canucks can finally get a win at the TD Garden, where the Bruins beat them soundly in the Finals.
This will be the only chance the Bruins get to confront Aaron Rome, who delivered that devastating late hit on Bruin's postseason hero Nathan Horton that ended Horton's postseason and earned Rome a four-game suspension.
Get your tickets now if it's not too late, because this is going to be a game you do not want to miss.
Questions? Comments? If there are games that you think will be more exciting, please leave a comment. I will get back to you.