The Bruins hit the ice, ready to give faithful fans everything they’ve been missing. After the circulation of rumors that NHL fans would boycott arenas earlier this week surfaced, it’s safe to say that a rumor was just that, a rumor. The Bruins skated onto home ice in front of 17,565 fans, for their 130th consecutive sellout. With an abbreviated season, every game holds a slightly higher value than the usual time line of an October start. A key component is chemistry and with few changes to their roster, chemistry for the Bruins picked up where it left off last season.
With the Bruins ousting the Rangers 3-1, it was a night of milestones for a few select Bruins players. Lucky 17, with the birth of his daughter Valentina on the 17th, Milan Lucic has quite a bit to be thankful for- last night, fans were thankful for his presence on the ice as he netted the first goal of the season for Boston at 14:14 of the first period. While Daniel Paille beat Lundqvist at 8:20 of the second and Johnny Boychuk celebrated his 29th birthday with a goal at 8:13 of the 3rd. The lone Rangers goal came from Brad Richards at 12:50 of the second period. Assisting on the Richards goal, the highly sought off-season addition of Rick Nash, who wasn’t exactly pleased by the start of his career in a Rangers jersey. “It didn’t come out the way we wanted it to, a lot of rust in the first period,” said Nash. “Good thing about hockey, there’s another one tomorrow night.”
The Rangers have quite a few Massachusetts roster ties, with some players from the state and others holding collegiate backgrounds from Boston schools. One player in particular, forward Chris Kreider holds both ties. A native of Boxford, MA, Kreider played 18 games for New York during last season’s playoff run. However, last night marked his first NHL regular season game, played in front of friends and family on familiar ice.
While it was Kreider’s first regular season NHL game, last night was a milestone for the youngest player on the Bruins. At just 19-years old, 6’5″ defenseman Dougie Hamilton skated in his first career NHL game. Quite possibly an overwhelming experience, Hamilton focused on staying calm and his actions on the ice reflected that nicely. “You don’t really hear the cheering, it’s pretty cool to go out and look around” said Hamilton, “and realize your dream has come true.”
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After a pre-season scrimmage loss of 7-5 earlier in the week against AHL affiliate Providence Bruins, skepticism bubbled to the surface about Tuukka Rask’s ability to carry the team as a starting goaltender. Despite the team playing less confidently in front of Rask in the past, with Tim Thomas out of the picture, the Finnish goaltender has an opportunity to shine in crease. “I just want to go day by day,” said Rask. “Game by game, see where it leads us.”
While the first period didn’t bring much action, and lacked a certain amount of physicality that some fans may have been expecting based on past match ups, the game turned physical as time ticked away. Shawn Thornton pummeled Rangers Mike Rupp, closely followed by Bruins Gregory Campbell dropping the gloves with Stu Bickel both fights coming during the second period just 3 seconds after one another.
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Fights occur for a variety of reasons, but often as a spark to swing momentum in one direction or another. It’s a tactic used to benefit all players on the ice, goaltenders included. “You see those fights and stuff, the last thing you want to do as a goalie is let that next shot in,” said Rask. “My mindset is to stay focused on my job, get that next save so the team can build momentum.”
It was an energy packed start to a jam packed season for the Bruins and their fans. The team will look to keep the wins coming as Winnipeg jets into town tomorrow afternoon for a 1 pm puck drop. The Bruins will then head to New York for a quick re-match on Wednesday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. After months of rest, teams will no longer be afforded that luxury as the Bruins close out the week on Friday back at the Garden against the Islanders. For fans that missed having a season, there’s plenty of hockey to be had.