Monday, October 27, 2008

Bruins Making Progress in 12-Step Program

Ten games into the season, it seems that the Bruins are who we thought they were -- an improving team with a solid young core and only one foot in the playoff bracket.

As we are already heading into their second Western Conference adventure, this might be a timely moment to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the Bruins' schedule. Of course, the season always begins with the ironic arrival of the circus at the Garden, so the Bs effectively start the season with a backlog of home dates... which can be an advantage if they survive a few brutal road trips.

But the really nasty stuff doesn't come around until later (see Steps 6 and 8 below). Here's how the Bruins' schedule breaks down this season, in a format familiar to longtime Boston fans:

STEP 1: Opening Road Trip -- The Bruins were 2-1-1 on a cross-continental road trip with three tough opening-night games in hostile arenas (Denver, Minnesota, Montreal).

STEP 2: Opening Homestand -- Including a short trip to Buffalo, the Bruins finished with a 1-1-2 record against two division leaders and two cellar-dwellers.

STEP 3: West Coast Road Trip -- Only 3 games, but these are all against "counterpart" teams on the Western Conference playoff bubble in a span of 4 days. It will be an important test of resilience.

STEP 4: November Homestand -- 8 of 13 games at home, and only one road game in a distant city (Chicago). Three games against Buffalo will go a long way toward determining division standings at the end of the year.

STEP 5: Southeast Division -- The Bruins play 7 of 8 games against SE teams in December, including two each against Tampa and Atlanta. These are eminently winnable, low-pressure matchups against conference opponents. Gotta rack up points.

STEP 6: Holiday Road Trip -- A beastly turn of events, taking the Bruins away from home and hearth for both Christmas and the New Year. Furthermore, the trip stretches the team from St. Louis to New Jersey to Atlanta and back up to Pittsburgh, then a rushed return home for a second game against the Penguins in Boston. This will either exhaust young emotions or bond the team... making or breaking the midseason.

STEP 7: January Homestand -- 10 of 13 games at home, with a couple of short-range road trips in between.

STEP 8: The Gauntlet -- Habs, Flyers, Sens, Flyers, Sharks, Devils. In 10 days, the Bruins play half a dozen games against teams you'd only want to face every once in a while. This leads into a 5-game southern road trip and a return to Boston including games against the Ducks, Caps and Flyers. Perhaps the Ducks and Flyers will still suck by then, but I doubt it. Februrary will be a grueling test.

STEP 9: The Home Stretch -- After their final major road trip, the Bruins finish with 14 of 22 games at home... and only one road game (Columbus) farther away than Philly. This stretch includes juicy home dates against the Panthers, 'Yotes, Blackhawks, Kings, Isles and Lightning. It also includes 3 games against Ottawa who could conceivably have a firesale at the trade deadline. Aside from playing consecutive nights at Nassau and the Aud to finish the season, this is a great piece of playoff-run scheduling.

STEP 10: The Playoffs -- TBD.

Step 11: Necessary filler for 12-step program.

Step 12: A parade to the Garden -- Hopefully not involving elephants this time.

Stumble Upon Toolbar


The Bastahd said...

Step 11 is my favorite!

Certainly should be an interesting season... next few nights may tell us a lot about this team's future.

Anonymous said...

Wow, you are looking way further ahead than I am.

I would have added something about being forced to apologize.

Anonymous said...

Back to the Saturday game, Doug Weight's hit is as legit to the other player's discretion. Do I believe NHL should change its image. Absolutely not. But to be honest with you, hockey players with suspensions and troubled careers just go too far. Period.

Tom said...

anon, I agree that the league takes a soft approach to players with history. Perhaps the Chris Simon suspension was intended to reverse that image, but as always it's a matter of consistency and follow-through. Guys like Hollweg need to start receiving suspensions in the 10-game range for dirty hits.