With a successful month of February behind them, the Boston Bruins enter perhaps the most important month of their regular season.
March sees the Bruins face off against their biggest Atlantic division rivals and also presents the Bruins with opportunities to bank some ‘easy’ points to help secure a division title.
Here’s a closer look at some of the key match-ups in March:
March 3rd and March 7 - Boston Bruins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
In conceivably the biggest two games of the year so far, the first week of March has the Bruins and the Lightning meeting up twice to see who really is the best team in the Atlantic (and maybe the NHL).
The Lightning, who a few weeks ago couldn’t lose a game even if they tried, have now come back to earth, losing 4 in a row to end the month after an insane 12-game winning streak (though they did win their most recent game).
Without a doubt injuries have played a part in the Bolts' recent struggles, as they had to dress 7 defensemen against the Blackhawks because they didn’t have enough forwards in Chicago to dress. Even worse news for the Lightning is Steven Stamkos being out for the next 6 - 8 weeks with a core injury.
Injuries aside, you can expect the Bolts to still play the Bruins tough in these two games. The Lightning have had the Bruins’ number over the past few seasons, and will look to continue that success against the B’s in March.
For the Bruins, these match-ups present the classic ‘measuring stick’ opportunity. Both teams made significant moves at the deadline, and both have eyes on getting ready for playoff hockey. If the Bruins hope to return to the Stanley Cup Final once again, they will most likely have to go through the Bolts to get there. These games could certainly let fans know if the B’s are up to the task.
March 5 and March 28 - Boston Bruins vs. Florida Panthers
These are desperate times for the Florida Panthers. After failing to take advantage of the Leafs’ struggles in February, the Cats will be in dire need of points if they wish to qualify for the playoffs this year.
Possessing one of the league's most potent offences, the Panthers have still not figured out how to keep the puck out of their own net.
For the Bruins, these games present the opportunity to show Florida who’s boss prior to a potential match-up in the first round of the playoffs. In addition, the B’s can seek a little more revenge after they embarrassingly blew a 4-goal lead to Florida back in November.
Finally, the Bruins also get to say ‘hi’ to old friends Frank Vatrano and goal-scoring phenom Noel Acciari.
March 14 - Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Who doesn’t like a classic Leafs vs. Bruins match-up on a Saturday night? After one of the most embarrassing losses in NHL history (David Ayres is a legend!), the Leafs pulled off a couple of huge victories in Florida against the Bolts and Panthers and will look to keep it rolling as they fight for 3rd in the Atlantic.
You also know the Buds are going to be motivated against potential first round match-up Boston, as they look to build some momentum against their fearsome foe.
On the other hand, the upcoming game against the Leafs gives the Bruins the opportunity to continue their dominance against Toronto and crush any hope for a different result in the first round of the playoffs.
The B’s are 2-0-1 against the Leafs this season, winning the last two match-ups by a score of 4-2. A third win could show the Leafs that nothing has changed and the Bruins are ready for them in the playoffs.
The match-up also gives fans a chance to watch a one-on-one battle for the Rocket Richard trophy between David Pastrnak and Auston Matthews. Let’s hope for a Rask shutout that night, combined with a Pasta hat trick.
The trip out west for teams from the east is not quite what it used to be. With all three of the California teams struggling mightily this season, the Bruins will look to rack up the points while sun-tanning in the Golden State.
Probably the most interesting part of this trip is the game against the Ducks as Ondrej Kase, Nick Ritchie, Danton Heinen, and possibly David Backes get a chance to faceoff against familar faces on their old teams. Anyone wanna bet that Heinen scores against the Bruins?
With 14 games in 31 days, March will be a busy month for the black and gold. It could also be the month that determines who wins the Atlantic Division, who the Bruins will face in round one of the NHL playoffs, and if #88 can bring home the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Which games are you looking forward to this month?