Bruins fans can be excused if they are still engrossed in looking back at their favorite games from the past season. After all, reliving Boston's first Stanley Cup run in 39 years will never get old for the Bruins' faithful.
But a long playoff run makes for a short offseason, and it will soon be time for the Bruins to begin their defense of that title.
With that in mind, it's never too soon to look ahead to what should be the highlights of the upcoming season.
The most anticipated night will be the first one, as opening night will bring the first chance to raise a new Cup banner to the rafters in nearly four decades. Even better, in addition to the Bruins and a packed Garden house of 17,565, the Philadelphia Flyers will be on hand to witness the festivities on Oct. 6.
Raising the banner against the archrival Canadiens may have been more historically fitting, but forcing the Flyers to watch after the clubs' clashes the last two springs isn't a bad alternative. Any demons from the 2010 collapse that weren't exorcised by this past spring's sweep of Philadelphia will certainly be eradicated when the Flyers are forced to stand idly by as the Bruins' latest championship is celebrated.
The rest of October isn't bad either. Not only do the Bruins play seven of their 10 games at home that month, but the matchups also include a rematch of the Eastern Conference Final when Tampa Bay comes to town for the second game of the season on Oct. 8. It's doubtful a regular-season clash will come close to matching the magnificence of Boston's thrilling 1-0 Game 7 win, but it should have a little more intensity than the average October affair.
That should be true for the Oct. 27 game against Montreal as well, when the Habs pay their first visit to the Garden since Nathan Horton sent them to the golf course with his overtime goal in Game 7 of that epic opening-round series.
The Bruins will have to wait a little longer for their final postseason rematch. They don't face Vancouver until the Canucks come to town on Jan. 7. After the animosity built up in their seven-game grudge match in the Cup Final, that should certainly be a heated game. Fortunately for all involved, the game is in Boston, so the fireworks should be confined to the ice and not the innocent automobiles outside.
The Bruins will participate in another interesting inter-conference showdown earlier in the season, as they travel to Chicago on Oct. 15 in a matchup of the last two cup winners. If two Original Six rivals with recent titles isn't enough to whet your appetite, bear in mind that game will also be Shawn Thornton's first opportunity to have a little chat with the Blackhawk who bravely chirped him from the safety of the bench after Thornton had been seriously cut on the face by a skate blade last year.
Other early highlights include back-to-back visits from old friends Phil Kessel and Joe Thornton as the Leafs make their first stop at the Garden on Oct. 20 and the Sharks pay their only call to Boston two days later.
On Nov. 10, Boston fans get their first chance to witness a Taylor-Tyler showdown in person as Taylor Hall and the Oilers come to the Garden for the first time since Edmonton chose Hall with the first pick of the 2010 draft, leaving Tyler Seguin for the Bruins at No. 2. Hall had the better rookie stats for the last-place Oilers, but Seguin is probably just a bit more satisfied with having his name engraved on the Cup after just one season in the NHL.
Later in November, Bruins fans can give thanks for a marquee matinee matchup with Detroit on Black Friday, followed by the first return to town by the new Winnipeg Jets as Mark Stuart, Blake Wheeler and the rest of the transplanted Thrashers play at the Garden on Nov. 26.
After Christmas, the Bruins can relive memories of Prague with the Coyotes in Phoenix on Dec. 28, then renew acquaintances with their old sparring partners in Dallas on New Year's Eve.
More gloves could be shed when Matt Cooke and Pittsburgh finally come to town for the first time on Feb. 4, while the Bruins could have a rough month in March for other reasons. They face a grueling schedule with 17 games that month, including a rare late-season West Coast swing with stops in San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim late in the month.
The season concludes with a visit from Northeast Division rival Buffalo on April 7. That's the end of the regular season anyway, but if next year is anything like the past one, that will be just the warm-up to the games to really look forward to in the spring.
NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will be answering one question facing the Bruins this offseason each day until Aug. 8.
Saturday, July 30: What rookies are poised to challenge for spots on the Boston roster?
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