The Bruins today announced that individual game tickets for the 2010-11 season will go on sale Saturday at 11 a.m. at the TD Garden box office and on the team’s Web site.
While as an accredited member of the media I am not affected by the ticket-buying experience, there are still a handful of games that (baby permitting) I’m looking forward to attending more the others. Here’s a look at my seven top home-ice picks, excluding games against Montreal and Toronto — which are always big events.
1. Oct. 21 vs. Washington
After playing the first four games of the regular season on the road, including two in Prague, the Bruins finally open up at home. Not only should this be Tyler Seguin’s regular-season home debut, but it’s a stiff test as the second half of a home-and-home with last year’s No. 1 team in the Eastern Conference. Last year’s Bruins squad managed just a 1-2-1 record against the Capitals, with the one win coming in a shootout on the last day of the regular season in a glorified exhibition game.
2. Nov. 18 vs. Florida
These early-season games against Sun Belt teams are usually a real yawn, but at this one I expect something different to come out of the Bruins’ fans’ mouths. Assuming he’s healthy, Dennis Wideman will make his return to the Garden. After seeing how he was treated while wearing black and gold, I can’t wait to see how the fans deal with him as the enemy. I’ll also be interested to see how he responds both during and after the game.
3. Nov. 20 vs. Los Angeles
Despite getting turned down by seemingly every marquee free agent this summer, the Kings are still going to be chic pick to win the Cup, or at least challenge for it, this season. The Bruins dropped a pair of shootouts to LA last season, and the year before you’ll remember they lost a game on home ice after squandering a late lead. Not only do the Kings provide some great competition, they sport defenseman Drew Doughty — maybe the closest thing to a Bobby Orr-like player than anyone else in the league these days.
4. Dec. 11 vs. Philadelphia
The home crowd finally gets another chance to see the team that pulled off the unthinkable last spring. While the Flyers will be minus one of their biggest playoff heroes, Simon Gagne, they still sport Chris Pronger, Mike Richards and Daniel Briere — three players Boston fans don’t have to be coaxed into hating. The Boston-Philadelphia rivalry, which was perked up by last year’s Winter Classic, is now in full bloom again for the first time since the mid-70s.
5. Dec. 23 vs. Atlanta
By Christmas time we should know if the Thrashers’ switch to former Bruins assistant coach Craig Ramsay as head coach and some of their personnel moves have made them a contending club. Regardless of their standing, however, the Thrashers should be pumped and jacked to win one for their coach in his return to his most recent employer’s rink. There was no bad blood when Ramsay left, but in his first true chance to be a head coach he’ll undoubtedly want to beat one of his many mentors, Bruins bench boss Claude Julien.
6. Jan. 15 vs. Pittsburgh
By midseason, the Bruins could be battling Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin & Co. for seeding, and it’s always a big occasion when Sid The Kid is in town. The Penguins’ revamped defense should have them primed to dominate the East, and the Bruins will have a post-New Year’s opportunity to send a message should the two clubs meet in the postseason.
7. March 29 vs. Chicago
By the time the Blackhawks hit the ice this fall with their new-look roster (reconstructed because of a salary-cap crunch), it’ll be hard to remember that they won the Cup last spring. When Chicago lands on Causeway Street, there’s no telling if they’ll resemble that championship club at all. We’ll know by late March if the ‘Hawks’ decision to let Antti Niemi walk and go with Marty Turco in net was a wise move. The Bruins will get a late-season chance to hone their postseason game with a late tilt against the champs.
Injuries and a surprise team or two this winter could change what constitutes a big game and what doesn’t, but I’m pretty confident the seven above-mentioned contests will be can’t-miss games. Maybe I’ll even see you around the rink.