Coming off a miserable 0-3 round-robin record, the Bruins will take on Sebastian Aho and the Hurricanes in round one of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Momentum is definitely on the Hurricanes’ side, however, you can’t count out a Bruins group filled with veterans who know how to win in the playoffs. Last year, the Bruins demolished Carolina, sweeping them and never really giving them a chance in the series. While I don’t expect the same level of dominance, the Bruins really should still win this series.
Keys to the Series
First Line Battle
If the Bruins want to move on to the second round, their first line needs to wake up and outperform a speedy and skilled Hurricanes top line of Aho, Svechnikov, and Teravainen. Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak need to start generating more chances and shut down the Hurricanes trio. With Zdeno Chara looking more like a glacier than a Norris Trophy candidate, my guess would be that the faster defensive pairing of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo will get the first crack at the Aho line.
Tuukka Rask is so head and shoulders above both Peter Mrazek and James Reimer it isn’t even funny. This matchup is where the B’s have the biggest advantage, and they need to capitalize on the opportunity. The Bruins have had an exorbitant amount of success vs both Hurricanes goaltenders, and they’ll need to continue that trend if they want to move on.
At this point in his career, anything you get from David Krejci is a bonus. He was such a non-factor in the play-in games and last season’s playoffs that I have come to expect next to nothing from the aging center. Charlie Coyle on the other hand is someone the Bruins can and should rely on to provide some much needed secondary scoring. His line of Ritchie and Bjork will likely draw the Vincent Trocheck line for Carolina and will need to vastly outperform them.
The fourth line has always been a staple of Bruin’s playoff success, and they will need Sean Kuraly and co. to step up their games exponentially in order to advance. Kuraly, Wagner, and Nordstrom will probably end up drawing the Aho line in some defensive situations, so they will need to play a similar level to last year’s playoff run.
Prediction: Despite hating the way the Bruins approached the play-in games, I just cannot see them losing to this Hurricanes team. Against almost any other team I wouldn’t have picked them, but the Bruins just have the Hurricanes’ number. They are more talented, have more experience, better goaltending, superior coaching, the whole nine yards. Dropping this series would be an abject disaster for a Bruins core that doesn’t have many more cracks at the cup. Bruins in 5.