Never one to shy away from a donnybrook or a bloodbath, Bruins president Cam Neely seemed to be salivating over the idea that the Bruins would be playing each of the other seven teams in the new East Division eight times.
“I mean playing these teams that many times, guys will be sick of each other in a hurry,” Neely said during his conference call with reporters Monday.
The great news for Neely is that although the Bruins won’t be facing archrivals Toronto or Montreal, who for now are relegated to the North Division (consisting of the seven Canadian teams), after the NHL starts up Jan. 13 the Bruins and many of their divisional foes already have some bad blood.
Buffalo, New Jersey, New York, Long Island, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington — there’s a lot to hate.
A lot of thoughts shoot through the brain looking at both the East Division’s lineup and the playoff format that’s scheduled to follow the regular season come May.
Here are some quick-hit thoughts:
Bruins fans can delight in the idea that they won’t have to see their team lose to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the postseason this season, or at least not before the NHL semifinals. The defending Stanley Cup-champion Lightning are tucked away in their cozy Central Division (not sure what they’re in the “Central” of) along with NHL runner-up Dallas and a lineup of average and below-average teams. Rolling to a top-two finish in that division will feel like a day at the beach for Tampa Bay.
But maybe if the Bruins reach the final four and Tampa Bay stands in their way, at least the Lightning could have some wear and tear on them. And as far as the Bruins’ travel schedule, without games against the Lightning or Florida Panthers, they must be relieved they won’t have to make stops in one of the coronavirus capitals on the world.
Keep your heads on a swivel
Never mind the history the Bruins have with some of their new divisional foes in terms of getting cheap shotted (Matt Cooke, Brooks Orpik, Alex Ovechkin, Tom Wilson, Chris Kreider). This could be the division with the most players willing to push physicality up to (and sometimes across) the discipline line. Eight games against Kreider, Ovechkin, Wilson, Travis Konecny, Brandon Tanev, Leo Komarov, and the New York Islanders’ fourth line? Ouch. Or potentially ouch.
Nick Ritchie’s going to have to perfect his intimidation face because other than his presence the Bruins haven’t done much to close any toughness gap they may have had last season even while playing in a meeker division. (Trent Frederic, you’ll never have a better chance to make it.)
We’ll be missing you
The East Division is by far the toughest of the divisions, but that’ll make a shortened season all the more fun. And is anyone going to really miss Montreal and Toronto games? Nah. In fact, maybe the new alignment will convince the NHL to rework its divisions, or maybe to rotate teams in and out of divisions. At the very least, the league might be convinced to go back to the one-through-eight playoff format because there will be so many rivalries built up among teams that haven’t been in the same division in recent years. Heck, those Bruins-Flyers and Bruins-Rangers games pretty much lost their meaning when the league went to the divisional playoff format.
Revive the Bruins-Flyers rivalry, NHL. We demand it.