By Matthew Cunha
The weather is great, summer is looming, and the Boston Bruins are in the playoffs. It is a great time to be alive. Nothing is better than watching hockey in short sleeves and shorts, it is at least if the Bruins are winning. Thanks to a win from the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Maple Leafs on the last day of the season, the B’s draw the beatable Ottawa Senators, instead of the powerhouse Capitals who rocked the B’s in the last game of the season despite having nothing to play for. (It’s like they just did it for fun!) Here is everything you need to know.
- The Bruins are 0-3-1 against the Senators this year – Three of these games were in March under Bruce Cassidy. The Bruins scored just 6 goals thanks in large part to the Senators 1-3-1 zone. The Bruins have had an awful time trying to break out from their own zone against the Sens this season. The Bruins will need to find a way to beat that if they want different results.
- Boston injuries = the future is now – Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, and Noel Acciari are all in line to miss game one and Krug and Carlo are big blows on the defensive end. Especially Krug, who is one of the few Bruins who can successfully beat the zone. As a result, the Bruins called up coveted prospect Charlie McAvoy to help fill the void. He could either be a big boost for the team, or crack under the pressure of his first NHL stint. It is a risk, but the future number one defenseman will make for good theatre. Ironically, it was Torey Krug who broke out in the playoffs due to an injury when the Bruins reached the Cup Finals in 2013.
- Don’t expect these games to be entertaining – Thanks to the annoying zone Senators head coach Guy Boucher runs, these games could be a neutral zone battle from start to finish. A casual hockey fan might have a hard time watching but if the games get entertaining, it’s likely to be in favor of the Bruins.
- Key Players – For the Bruins, Brad Marchand has been the key guy all season and it is safe to say he has a lot to prove after being suspended. For the Senators, the only guy worth noting is defenseman Erik Karlsson, whose puck moving abilities at the back end of the zone allow the Senators to be successful. He had 71 points this season and it could be argued that he is the most important player to his team throughout the playoffs. Expect him to play north of 30 minutes a game.
- Should this even be a series? – Points wise, this is a matchup of the 6th and 7th best teams in the East. The messed up system of playing out of the division can be thanked for that. This time around, it helps the Bruins however when you remember that in a few years when the Bruins are the second best team in the conference playing the third best team like the Penguins and Blue Jackets are doing this season.
- Goalie Matchup Bos – Tuukka Rask (37-20-5) Ott – Craig Anderson (25-11-4, 2.28)
Not a big difference, however
Rask – 47 GP (28-19, 2.11)
Anderson – 27 GP (12-14, 2.35)
- Bottom Line – The Bruins, despite the lack of success vs the Senators are the more experienced and talented team. Outside of Karlsson, the Senators don’t have that much talent. This lack has been made up by a stingy zone. I’m not sure how far that takes anybody in a seven game series where you have plenty of time to rest and game plan. Marchand, Bergeron, Rask, Krejci, and Chara have enough experience and talent to give the Bruins the edge if they can overcome defensive injuries and if Charlie MCavoy can provide enough of a boost.
- Prediction – The Bruins struggle early in the series due to Ottawa zone, but find a way to move on in 7 games with Claude Julien and the Montreal Canadiens waiting for them in the next round. Coaching cannot win the series, and the more talented team prevails in a tighter series. My high level optimism for spring gets to stick around. Remember, it took an 18-8-1 stretch to even make here. There is no reason to believe that this Bruins team can’t win 4 out of 7 vs a team who accumulated only 3 more points during the regular season.
Matthew Cunha is a producer on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.