After what feels like an eternity, given that this is Boston, Bruins playoff hockey is back for the first time in three years. I, for one, am extremely excited about it because nothing beats the NHL Playoffs for pure sports drama and when your team is playing, your heart beats like you’re on whatever Club Dave’s on.
For the first time ever, the Bs will face off against the Ottawa Senators in a playoff series. 1992-93 was their first season as an expansion team and the first year they qualified for the postseason, 1996-97, was the year the Bruins pro sports record of 29 straight years in the playoffs came to a crashing halt. In nine out of the next 19 seasons, either the Bruins or Senators didn’t make the playoffs (neither did last year). And in the remaining years, due to the vagaries of seeding and success, the stars just never aligned for these two to establish a playoff rivalry. That’ll change quick.
As called here, the Bs finished third in the “Northeast” to draw the second place Sens though they both had 44 wins and Boston had four more ROW (regulation/overtime wins). Three loser points were the difference. Much is being made about the Sens 4-0 season sweep of the Bs but put no stock in it for two reasons: the playoffs are a new season and at least two of those games were coin flips (the shootout and the late bullshit penalty call on Dom Moore to hand the game over). Those four games are irrelevant today.
What the Bruins need to do to win.
Be patient. The Bs can’t get too antsy going against Guy Boucher’s boring-ass 1-3-1. They’ll need to wait for the right moment to attack without getting frustrated with Ottawa’s system. Bruce Cassidy is hoping the Bs newest defenseman Charlie McAvoy will be a big key in breaking down the Senators coverage. No pressure on the kid or anything. But the Bs need to make sure they don’t allow any counterattack because Ottawa does have talent up front and they’ll make Boston pay.
Pound the fuck out of Erik Karlsson every single chance they get. Ottawa’s sublime D-man missed five of the last seven games with a pair of LBIs (one is allegedly a foot injury). They were pretty huge games for the Sens and he was on the bench so he couldn’t have been too close to 100%. Still, even Karlsson at 50% is pretty dangerous. That’s why the Bruins need to bury him every chance they get and if he should re-aggravate one of his LBIs, well, them’s the playoffs.
Start hating early and be emotionally involved. It won’t be hard when you have Hannibal Lecter himself on Ottawa, Alex Burrows.
Even though he’s getting up there and doesn’t log the minutes he used to, Chris Neil loves to play the role of Total Dickhead. And Dion Phaneuf’s a stooge, too.
With that Goon Squad, it shouldn’t be too hard for the Bs to start hating very early in the series. The more engaged emotionally, the better they’ll play.
Play smart. File this under ‘No shit, Sherlock’ but it’s still worth mentioning. I’d like to think Brad Marchand learned his lesson for his ill-advised nut shot late in the year but somebody in the room still ought to remind him that his team doesn’t need any foolish antics. Though Ottawa was 23rd in power play percentage during the season, that doesn’t mean they can’t score at a 25% clip in the playoffs. But if they Bs don’t give them opportunities, they can’t score.
That would be McAvoy. The Bs best defensive prospect is getting the proverbial baptism by fire as his first NHL game will be opening night of the playoffs in a Canadian city. But all we’ve heard (and seen) is that McAvoy plays better when the lights are brightest. The fact that there’s no NHL tape on him can only work in his favor as Ottawa won’t really know what to expect. If the kid is the real deal, we should find out pretty quick. If he’s not, it’s gonna be interesting what becomes Plan C for the Bs coaching staff.
The Bs couldn’t have lost half of their top four D at a worse time. Though Brandon Carlo was still trying to clear his rookie year wall, Torey Krug was a vital cog in the team’s production with 8-43–51 totals. Still, the Sens are a team the Bruins should beat. They’re statistically better offensively, defensively, on special teams, and at the dot. Tuukka Rask gets the edge over Craig Anderson. But Marchand and David Pastrnak will prove to be too much for the Ottawa D. Bruins in 6.