In a weird way, the Red Sox unceremoniously getting swept out of the MLB postseason by the Indians in the ALDS on Monday does no favors to the Bruins on the eve of the NHL regular season. Boston opens up its 2016-17 campaign at Nationwide Arena on Thursday (7 p.m., NESN) vs. Columbus. The B’s first three games are all on the road against fellow non-playoff teams from last season (at Toronto on Saturday and at Winnipeg on Monday), so David Ortiz suddenly being retired and the Red Sox bowing out much sooner than we all expected translates into more pressure and scrutiny on the Black and Gold right away.
There will be nowhere to hide for the Bruins, which has to be a scary proposition for a team full of question marks and possible holes up and down their lineup. This much we can say, with some certainty: fresh off a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Cup, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are playing some of the best hockey of their lives. Goaltender Tuukka Rask should still be considered elite, and head coach Claude Julien (who has to be on the hot seat, right?) has great experience if nothing else. Boston’s projected top-two forward lines of Ryan Spooner-David Krejci-David Backes along with Marchand-Bergeron-David Pastrnak should both be lethal. Other than that, who really knows?
After he had a fight in Boston’s preseason finale with Philadelphia on Saturday, it’s not hard to picture Backes quickly becoming a fan favorite.
“We knew what we were getting with Backes,” noted Julien, who has coached against him in numerous international tournaments. “He’s a former captain in St. Louis that’s talking to the young kids and letting his linemates know what’s expected. He’s also helping Spooner. It’s good to have a guy like him.”
Things get much murkier on defense as it looks like, at least to start the season, the Bruins will feature two rookies in their top-two defensive pairings since the oft-injured Kevan Miller (expected out for awhile) and Adam McQuaid (day-to-day) are already sidelined.
Remind us again why Boston’s front office invested in either of them?
That means that Brandon Carlo will probably be with B’s captain Zdeno Chara, while Rob O’Gara is playing with Torey Krug. Christian Ehrhoff got a professional tryout late in camp but wasn’t offered a contract and Joe Morrow has again failed to impress so it looks like he’ll be the extra defenseman (healthy scratch).
NHL games in October can seem quite trivial on the surface, but recall how Boston’s disastrous 0-3 start (all at TD Garden) set them back right away in 2015-16. Their first two home games this season are also against non-playoff teams: Oct. 20 vs. New Jersey and Oct. 22 vs. Montreal, so it's paramount that Boston takes care of business.
Follow Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate