Protecting home ice a must for Bruins in 2016-17
BRIGHTON — Home is a comforting place — unless you’re the Boston Bruins.
As if last year is any reminder, the Bruins need that to change in 2016-17.
From their 0-3 start to 2015-16 to losing two of their last three on Causeway Street that led to another disappointing late regular season, the Bruins woes in front of their hometown fans were front and center. At 17-18-6, the Bruins finished with a point percentage under .500 at TD Garden for the first time in the Claude Julien era.
With the Devils, Canadiens and Wild coming to town for a three-game homestand, the emphasis of that home mark is on top of their bulletin board this week. The last thing that the Bruins need is for those home woes to continue following a 2-1 mark on their season-opening three-game road trip.
“In the past, that was a tough building to go to, and then last year not as much,” said David Krejci, who tallied one assist on the three-game road trip. “We have a good team and a good start, and we have a great opportunity to start the season at home on the right note, so we’ll go out there tonight, give it all we got and go out there and get the two points and move on.”
The Bruins already have some good news before hitting the ice for opening night against the Devils. Patrice Bergeron, who missed the road trip while nursing a lower body injury, will make his 2016-17 debut in front of the Garden crowd of 17,565 tonight.
A positive sign for a team that went 2-1 without their best all-around player.
“He’s one of the best players in the league,” said Brad Marchand, who tallied a pair of goals in Columbus on opening night with David Backes taking Bergeron’s spot as the first line center. “He’s obviously going to help our team a lot, and give us a lot of depth, so it’s great to have him back for tonight.”
While Bergeron’s return is encouraging, the Bruins know that they need all 20 players to contribute in some capacity on any given night. From the veterans like Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask to the youngsters like Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen, David Pastrnak and Rob O’Gara, to newcomers like Backes, Riley Nash and Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are looking to give the fans something to cheer for.
A win on opening night would help in the short term. Improving their home mark long-term will be a major factor on whether or not the Black and Gold returns to the playoffs after a two-year absence.
“We had a nice road trip where we went 2-1, and now we’re looking forward to some home cooking and get in front of our fans that bring energy to our building — even when it was two-thirds full for the preseason,” Backes said. “I can only imagine for a home opener that it’s going to be rocking. We’re going to need to respond accordingly and play a solid game to get a win, and that’s what we need our focus to be on.”